I. Renko is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report from Dayton after Sunday’s Third Round game between #2 Ohio State and #7 Iowa State. Follow him on Twitter @IRenkoHoops.
Three Key Takeaways:
- Craft in the Clutch — Aaron Craft’s performance over the final five minutes of this game illustrated his broader tendency to be inconsistent while, at the same time, coming up big at key moments. Craft has alternated all year between high and low scoring games, but in the final few weeks of the season, he put together several key offensive performances in the Buckeyes’ biggest games to sweep Michigan State and take down Indiana on the road. His back-to-back missed front ends hurt his team badly, allowing Iowa State to close a 13-point lead in a matter of minutes. But in the closing seconds, Craft confidently stroked the game-winning three-pointer with a defender in his face. The entire time he held the ball on that final possession, Craft looked like someone who knew he was going to score — shaking off screeners and teammates, patiently biding his dribble — and was just trying to drain enough time off the clock to make sure he won the game.
- Iowa State State Showed Tremendous Fight — Midway through the first half, it looked like the game might get away from the Cyclones as their offense was sputtering, but they found their three-point shot and their mix of man and zone defensive looks threw Ohio State out of its offensive rhythm. As a result, the Cyclones were able to stay within two points at the half. Then, in the second half, when it looked like Ohio State was putting the game away, up 69-56 with 6:04 to play, the Cyclones reeled off a 13-0 run in just over two minutes to completely erase the lead entirely. This is an undersized team full of transfers that plays with a chip on its shoulder and won’t back down from anyone.
- The Three Ball Was Not Enough — Unable to get the kind of dribble penetration against Ohio State that Notre Dame’s swiss cheese defense allowed, the Cyclones returned to their old standby — the three-point shot. They made only one of their first five attempts, but from there, they knocked down 11-of-20 from downtown. They finished the game with more threes than twos and a better field goal percentage to boot. And while it very nearly brought them to the verge of victory, it was not enough.
Star of the Game: Craft served up the late game heroics, but it was Deshaun Thomas‘ inside-out game that mostly powered Ohio State’s offense. The Cyclones not only mixed man and zone defenses, they threw several different defenders at Thomas in their man defense. But the junior forward adapted well to whomever was guarding him, scoring 22 points on 8-of-14 shooting.