TULSA, Okla. — Aaron Craft was a thousand miles and a big ocean away from Ohio State when its NCAA Tournament opponent was announced, but he didn’t have to look nearly that far for an opportunity for a little good-natured trash talk.
He didn’t even have to leave his locker room. Craft, playing for Aquila Basket Trento in Italy’s Lega Basket Serie A, is teammates with former Iowa State player Dustin Hogue.
“The first thing that popped into my head this year when the bracket was announced was how much trash I was hopefully going to get to talk,” Craft wrote in an email.
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In the second round of the 2013 NCAA Tournament, No. 2 seed Ohio State was tied at 75 in the final seconds against No. 10 seed Iowa State in Dayton. Dribbling down the clock, Craft held onto the ball, waved off Deshaun Thomas and took the shot himself rather than pass to LaQuinton Ross along the right wing.
He stepped into his shot over Iowa State’s Georges Niang and buried the three with less than a second remaining to seal the win.
It hadn’t been the plan for the play, because that hadn’t been the plan all season.
“The play was a ball screen between Q and me, then a downscreen for DT on the other side of the floor,” Craft wrote. “The goal was to get the ball to him and let our best scorer take a shot, but after the ball-screen they switched, and for some reason, in my head I decided I was going to take it from there. The shot happened pretty naturally without much thought, even though I’m not sure I had taken that kind of shot all season.”
Otherwise, Craft pointed out, it wasn’t much of a game for him to write home about, describing his play as “terrible down the stretch” with turnovers and missed free throws. Plus, he admittedly “got the benefit of the doubt on a block/charge call that probably should have been an and-one which would have made it really tough for us to win.”
When it counted, though, he hit a shot that will be remembered.
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“Honestly, it didn’t hit me right away or even after the game that it was a game-winning shot in the NCAA Tournament,” Craft wrote. “It has taken a while to really appreciate that moment. It’s fun to think that one of the plays a defensive player with a not-so-confident jump shot like me is most remembered for is a three-pointer.”
Hogue arrived at Iowa State the following season.
On Friday night, the teams will meet for the first time since that game and it will again be in the NCAA Tournament. This time, No. 11 seed Ohio State is the underdog against Iowa State, a team that won the Big 12 tournament and earned a No. 6 seed.
Craft will be paying attention.
“Excited for a Buckeyes team that many didn’t think would be in this situation this year,” he wrote. “The tournament is a special time of year and I hope they can go out and make some memories of their own!”