The No. 2 Ohio State Buckeyes entered Sunday’s Round of 32 action as the highest seed remaining in the West Region.
With some late-game heroics and a 78-75 victory over Iowa State, they now face a fairly easy path to the Final Four.
Aaron Craft's three-pointer sealed the victory with less than a second to play.
Craft finished the game with 18 points and six assists while DeShaun Thomas had a game-high 22 and LaQuinton Ross contributed 17 for the Buckeyes, who shot 51 percent from the field and hit nine 3-pointers.
Iowa State killed Ohio State on the boards, 35-20, including a 12-2 edge on the offensive glass. They also knocked down 12 treys which fueled an impressive second-half comeback. Korie Lucious had 19 on 5-7 shooting from long distance. Will Clyburn and Tyrus McGee also combined for 31 in the loss.
The Cyclones got out to a hot start in the contest with a 7-2 lead and appeared to be in position to stage an upset.
CBS Sports’ Jeff Borzello pointed out the pressure Iowa State applied to Ohio State with this tweet:
Iowa State putting pressure on Ohio State early, at both ends of the floor. Switching screens, contesting shots, getting open looks.— Jeff Borzello (@jeffborzello) March 24, 2013
Two Sam Thompson free throws gave the Buckeyes their first lead of the game since the 19:17 mark (10-9), though, and Ohio State remained in control for the next five minutes of action.
With 8:12 remaining in the first half, a Will Clyburn layup contributed to a 9-1 Iowa State run to tie the score at 23-23, and a pair of Melvin Ejim free throws once again gave the Cyclones the lead at 25-23.
Rebounding was a big problem for the Buckeyes in the early going. Despite holding Iowa State to just 38.1 percent shooting from the floor in the first 14 minutes, Ohio State couldn’t get an advantage on the boards, as Lori Schmidt of 97.1 The Fan in Columbus highlighted here:
That's Ohio State's first offensive rebound of the day. They're getting beat on the boards 14-8.— Lori Schmidt (@LoriSchmidt) March 24, 2013
The Buckeyes played a fairly clean first half, though, turning the ball over just twice. The Cyclones didn’t fare as well, coughing it up nine times, which resulted in 10 Ohio State points, as noted by Chris Williams of Cyclone Fanatic:
Ohio State currently with 10 points off of turnovers. Zero for the #Cyclones— Chris Williams (@ChrisMWilliams) March 24, 2013
Three-point shooting kept Iowa State in the game through the first half. A pair of deep balls from Clyburn and Georges Niang in the final minutes of the half added to a late surge that gave Iowa State some momentum and just a two-point deficit heading into the locker room.
Turnovers continued to plague Iowa State in the second half, and the Buckeyes took full advantage, pulling away to a 49-43 lead with 15:01 to play. The six-point lead didn’t last long, though.
Korie Lucious answered with a big three-pointer to bring the Cyclones within three just 11 seconds later. Lucious committed five turnovers in the first 27 minutes of play, but he started 4-of-5 from three-point range, making up for his ball-handling miscues.
With Iowa State trailing 52-49 midway through the second half, a thunderous putback dunk by Ejim pulled the Cyclones within one—two of Iowa State’s 10 second-chance points to that point, as noted by Kyle Rowland of Eleven Warriors:
Timeout Ohio State. Cyclones cut OSU lead to one, 52-41 with 11:43 left. Iowa State now has 10 offensive rebounds, 10 second-chance points.— Kyle Rowland (@KyleRowland) March 24, 2013
The back-and-forth scoring continued with a Deshaun Thomas three-pointer, but the Buckeyes weren’t done. LaQuinton Ross followed with a breakaway layup and a three-pointer from the top of the key, extending Ohio State’s lead to nine points with 10:14 remaining.
Ross’ three gave Ohio State its largest lead of the game, as pointed out by Rowland with this tweet:
After 12 lead changes and seven ties, Ohio State has its largest lead of the game.— Kyle Rowland (@KyleRowland) March 24, 2013
Ross was a major contributor for the Buckeyes in the second half. On a team usually carried at the offensive end by Thomas, Ross tallied 10 points in the second frame on 2-of-6 from behind the arc. He finished with 17 points in the contest.
Ohio State increased its lead to as many as 13 points, but the Cyclones mounted a furious comeback on the shoulders of Lucious and Tyrus McGee.
In under three minutes, Iowa State erased all 13 points of that lead courtesy of clutch three-point shooting and poor free-throw shooting from the Buckeyes at the other end.
McGee knocked down a deep ball from the wing at the 3:23 mark and added a free throw to give Iowa State a 73-71 lead with just under three minutes remaining, tightening the screws on the Buckeyes.
Borzello summed up the momentum shift with one tweet:
Ohio State looks awfully nervy out there. Aaron Craft visibly frustrated.— Jeff Borzello (@jeffborzello) March 24, 2013
Nerves looked to get to Ohio State as the seconds continued ticking off the clock. The Buckeyes committed seven turnovers in the first 18 minutes of the second half after tallying just two in the first 20 minutes of the game and missed several crucial free throws—none more critical than three miscues from Aaron Craft at the charity stripe late in the contest.
He erased each of those mistakes with under a second remaining.
With the score tied at 75-75, Craft held the ball for the final shot. Dribbling outside the perimeter on the right side, Craft set his sights on the game clock and pulled up for the biggest three-pointer of his career.
ESPN850’s Kenny Roda captured the moment with this tweet:
Craft’s late-game lapses contributed to Iowa State’s run, but his heroics sealed the victory for Ohio State.
The Cyclones battled, but the Buckeyes ultimately triumphed in Dayton with their tournament hopes on the line. A matchup with No. 6 Arizona awaits them in the Sweet 16.
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