By Tim Graham
Aaron Craft made a reverse layup with 16 seconds left to give Ohio State a lead.
And there was no better candidate for a critical stop on the other end of the First Niagara Center court.
Craft, the two-time Big Ten defensive player of the year, guarded Dayton guard Vee Sanford, a slasher who'd made only three of his 10 shots in their NCAA tournament game.
Sanford dribbled to the right of lane and cut inside. Craft was close enough to feel Sanford's breath. But the shot went up and banked off the glass with 3.8 seconds on the clock.
Craft desperately dribbled down-court and launched a jump shot that rimmed out. Dayton won, 60-59.
"Defense has kind of been my thing," Craft said, "and it's amazing how it's going to end with a kid getting the game winner on me."
Ohio State coach Thad Matta was asked what Craft could've done differently.
"Honestly, me telling him how to play defense would be like me telling somebody how to build a rocket ship," Matta said. "I'll live and die with that kid any day of the year with what he's going to do defensively."
Craft's decorated career is over. He set the Big Ten record for steals and holds Ohio State's assists record. He became the first in school history to record 1,000 points, 500 assists and 200 steals. A pre-med student, he was Academic All-American of the year as a junior. He went 9-4 in NCAA tournament games.
"We wouldn't have been in this position had he not been doing the things that he had done to get us here," Matta said. "You look at his career, in my mind, in the 10 years I've been at Ohio State, he's going down as one of the all-time reatest players to ever put on the scarlet and gray."
taggedAtlantic 10 | Big Ten | NCAA Tournament