Being the good choirboy I am, I actually didn’t get a chance to watch the tournament match-up between Iowa State and Ohio State until after dinner today (church duties kept me busy). As anyone who knows me, I like to stay “in the dark” on Ohio State games and watch them unblemished on the DVR. At times, it’s a challenge to stay “clean”. Friends come up to my and ask me if I’ve seen the score or “how about that” or, as happened last Sunday, they congratulate me, as if I had any affect on the game. But now that I’ve made myself and my intentions known, people now give me a little space on Sundays so I can watch the game and not know how things end.
I had no idea what kind of a game waited for me on the DVR.
I was not alone in my worries about Iowa State. I, too, watched them dismantle Notre Dame (but to be honest, Notre Dame deserved to lose after seeing what unis they’ve been sporting for the past couple weeks) and their sharp shooting scared me. An underdog, a team with clearly the green light to launch threes at will and a team with nothing to lose. Those guys are the worse kind of second round match-up in the NCAA.
The first half went more or less according to any NCAA tournament game — a couple runs here for the Cyclones, the Buckeyes got theirs, but the teams were never further apart than six points. Clearly both teams were feeling each other out, seeing how the other team would react. It was clear that the Cyclones were not intimidated by the higher-seeded Buckeyes and they played toe-to-toe the whole first half. Emotions and adrenaline were high. Iowa State made a lot of mistakes, including more than one from former Michigan State PG Korie Lucious. It looked like Ohio State would be able to distance itself with some disciplined defense in the second half.
Then near the end of the first half, Iowa State guard Chris Babb came down on his ankle awkwardly and had to head to the locker room. He would not return to the game, a huge blow to Iowa State’s lineup. Losing Babb cost them one of their better defenders and senior leadership. Not to make light of another man’s injury, but things were looking up for the Buckeyes at the end of the first half. Them’s the breaks.
The second half turned out to be a roller coaster.
Ohio State would extend its half-time lead from two points to six as both teams went back and forth. Iowa State would close the gap to one point, 52-51, before Ohio State called time out. Led by LaQuinton Ross, the Buckeyes would then go on a run to distance themselves from the Cyclones. With a little more than eight minutes left in the game, Ohio State would lead 65-53. Things looked comfortably in hand.
Then the 3-point barrage from Iowa State would commence. Everyone got in on the action — Lucious, Ejim, McGee. It was an Oprah’s favorite threes party and you get a three pointer and you get a three pointer AND you get a three pointer. Before the under-4 timeout, Iowa State had pulled within 1, 68-69. Part of Iowa State’s comeback was aided by poor shooting by the Buckeyes, particularly from All-World Point Guard Aaron Craft, who missed the front-end of two one-and-ones and a jumper in the lane that would have kept OSU’s lead at a manageable level.
Instead, Iowa State briefly pulled away before things would be tied and an errant rebound would careen out of bounds, off an Iowa State player.
When it finally came down to it, tied 75-75 and the shot clock off, it was Aaron Craft who waved off Deshaun Thomas. Everyone else knew the ball was going to Deshaun. Deshaun thought the ball was going to Deshaun. But Craft had a mismatch, knew he had a chance and with the clock winding down, took aim at a three pointer.
Buckeyes are headed to the Sweet Sixteen in Los Angeles.