DAYTON, Ohio — Ohio State’s Aaron Craft whittled down the clock and swished a three-pointer with .5 seconds left for a 78-75 victory over Iowa State on Sunday to advance to the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet 16.
With the game tied, Ohio State’s Deshaun Thomas deflected a pass to force a turnover. Then, Craft missed a 15-footer, but the ball went out of bounds to OSU at 29.9.
Craft dribbled the clock down and hit his pull-up from the top of the key, atoning for some costly missed free throws earlier.
The Cyclones couldn’t get a shot off after that.
“I tried to stay as poised as possible,” Craft said. “Missed a lot of shots I normally make, layups and free throws. Got a mismatch, took the ball, and it went in.”
The second-seeded Buckeyes will meet sixth-seeded Arizona on Thursday in the regional semifinals at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
In the West bracket, seeds No. 1, 3, 4, 5, 7 and 8 are gone. Ninth-seeded Wichita State will play the winner of Sunday night’s game between No. 12 Mississippi and No. 13 La Salle in the other semifinal.
Thomas had a game-high 22 points, Craft 18 and sub LaQuinton Ross 17 for the Buckeyes, who were beaten on the boards, 36-22.
OSU withstood a three-point barrage from 10th-seeded Iowa State to build a 52-46 lead with 14:06 left in the second half. The Cyclones started 8-for-17 on three-pointers. They went from 8:07 of the first half to 15:47 of the second half without a two-point field goal.
Iowa State, brutalizing the Buckeyes on the boards, cut it to one (52-51) and forced OSU coach Thad Matta to call a timeout.
Thomas made a corner 3 that ignited a 13-2 run, including 10 points from Ross. Ross forced a turnover and converted it into a transition layup and then knocked down a three-pointer for a 65-53 lead with 8:18 left.
The Buckeyes (28-7) were up by 13 with six minutes to go, but the Cyclones (23-12) erased the deficit with a 13-0 run in a span of 1:57. Sub Tyrus McGee nailed a pair of 3-pointers, and a three-point play by Korie Lucious tied it at 69-all at 3:53.
Craft, a nearly an 80-percent foul shooter, missed a pair of 1-and-1s in the flurry.
Later, McGee hit another 3-pointer to give the Cyclones, who were 12-of-25 on 3-pointers, a one-point edge and made one of two foul shots for a two-point advantage.
Craft converted a three-point play. At 2:22, McGee swished two foul shots for a 75-74 Iowa State lead. And then Craft made one of two at 1:15 to tie it, setting up the final heroics.
Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg was unable to make an opening comment during the postgame news conference, the pain of the defeat etched all over his face.
“We played our hearts out,” Will Clyburn said. “It was a tough game and he made a tough shot. He made a great play.”
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