Wichita State v Ohio State

Craft and Company ran out of miracles this time


Ohio State junior point guard Aaron Craft has established a bit of a pattern in the NCAA tournament. As the Buckeyes faced down Iowa State in the Round of 32, it was Craft who pulled up with the game on the line and coolly buried the game-winning three point shot. Against Arizona in the Sweet Sixteen, Craft saw LaQuinton Ross open on the wing and fed the hot hand – it was another dramatic three-point splashdown to save the Buckeyes’ title hopes.

Not this time. Not against Wichita State, the No. 9 seed stocked with freshmen and transfers. The Shockers pulled out to a sizeable lead, as high as 20 points in the second half, which gave the Buckeyes a chance to rev up their eye-popping comeback mojo machine, and it looked like Craft and Company would do it again.

Craft nailed a trey with :06 left on the game clock to get the score to 70-66, and when WSU’s Tekele Cotton missed both free throws on the other end of the floor, Craft had another shot at closing the final gap. This time, however, the hole was too deep. The Buckeyes needed four points to play on, and Craft’s three – which missed – wouldn’t have changed the outcome even if another prayer had fallen in.

In the end, Craft’s past caught up with him. He hit only two shots – both of them from behind the arc – throughout the game, and had as many turnovers to his credit as assists. That was too much wrong to be put right before the clock ran out. Sometimes – most of the time, in fact – it’s better to be consistently good than consistently lucky.

Craft’s teammates were a mixed bag in this one, too. DeShaun Thomas, a CBT preseason All-America choice, went for 23 points on the interior, and sophomore forward LaQuinton Ross continued a string of solid postseason performances by knocking in 19 from all areas of the floor. In the end, two solid performances simply weren’t enough to get the Buckeyes back to the Final Four.

Thad Matta may have yet another shot at the brass ring next season. Thomas, despite his accolades, is rated by DraftExpress as the 62nd-best  NBA prospect in the nation, and Craft is well behind him, ranked 88th. With Ross developing into a dangerous player, and Thomas and Craft back, Matta will have a perfect three-man core to build his next title contender around. Perhaps even one that doesn’t have to rely on the buzzer-beater to advance into late March.

Eric Angevine is the editor of Storming the Floor. He tweets @stfhoops.

Brunson scores 18 points, No. 8 Villanova beats Stanford

Jalen Brunson
Associated Press
Leave a comment

NEW YORK (AP) Villanova struggled to score and rebound on Thursday night.

The Wildcats’ defense was good enough to still get a win.

No. 8 Villanova compensated for offensive and rebounding struggles by forcing 23 turnovers in a 59-45 victory over Stanford in the semifinals of the NIT Season Tipoff.

“We played pretty good defense but couldn’t rebound with them,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said. “It was one of those nights we couldn’t make shots but hung in there defensively. Their rebounding was almost a difference maker but thank God it wasn’t.”

The Wildcats (5-0) advanced to face Georgia Tech in the championship game Friday.

Villanova won despite shooting 30.6 percent and getting outrebounded by a 55-35 margin against an opponent starting three players 6-foot-8 or taller. The Wildcats started one player taller than 6-6 but compensated for the size differential by holding Stanford to 26 percent from the floor.

“I didn’t think it would be this ugly on the boards but if we could have made a couple of shots it might not have been as ugly,” Wright said. “But I was proud the guys really grinded defensively.”

Freshman Jalen Brunson was one of few Wildcats not to struggle offensively and scored a career-high 18 points. Josh Hart added 10 points but was 4-for-13 shooting and combined with Ryan Arcidiacono to shoot 6 of 24, including 1 of 15 from 3-point range.

“I was doing what I always do,” Brunson said. “I try to play aggressive all the time. I saw they were backing off me a little bit so there is time for me to shoot and time for me to make other plays.”

Leading scorer Marcus Allen had 12 points but was 3 for 12 for Stanford (2-3). Dorian Pickens added 11 points and 10 rebounds.

Stanford lost its third straight by double digits and will face Arkansas in the consolation game. The Cardinal missed their first 15 shots of the game and their first eight attempts of the second half while falling behind by 16.

Stanford was within seven on a basket by Reid Travis with 6:34 remaining, but Villanova scored the next six points and finished the game with a 13-6 run.

“They’re a very good defensive team, they’re active and they made a lot of plays,” Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins said. “The thing we did most was we turned the ball over 23 times, so that was disappointing.”


Villanova: Seven of Villanova’s school-record 33 wins came in New York last season. The Wildcats won twice in the Legends Classic at Barclays Center, beat St. John’s and Illinois during the regular season at Madison Square Garden and won three games there for the Big East Tournament championship. … Guards Arcidiacono and Hart combined to miss their first 11 3-point attempts. Arcidiacono came into the game shooting 44 percent from 3-point range while Hart entered at 45 percent. … Darryl Reynolds tied a career high with 19 minutes, getting most of those in the second half after Daniel Ochefu picked up his fourth foul.

Stanford: Thursday was Stanford’s 13th game in New York since 2011-12. Last year, the Cardinal appeared in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic, beating UNLV and losing to eventual national champion Duke. … Stanford faced Villanova for the second time. The other meeting was a 96-70 Cardinal loss on Dec. 23, 1970. … Stanford missed 12 layups and tip-ins during the first half. … Allen hit his head on the court trying to deflect the ball on a layup by Hart. Dawkins said Allen was a little dizzy but didn’t think the junior would miss any time.


Villanova: Georgia Tech in the championship game on Friday.

Stanford: Arkansas in the consolation game on Friday.

Justin Robinson, Monmouth knock off No. 17 Notre Dame

King Rice
Associated Press
Leave a comment

Less than two weeks after they opened their season with an upset win at UCLA, Monmouth picked up its first-ever win over a team ranked in the AP Top 25.

Two Justin Robinson free throws with 3.6 seconds remaining proved to be the difference as King Rice’s Hawks upset No. 17 Notre Dame at the Advocare Invitational in Orlando, and the diminutive point guard was a problem for the Fighting Irish all night.

Robinson scored 22 points, with 14 of them coming from the foul line as Notre Dame’s guards struggled to keep the quick guard contained off the dribble. He was one of three Hawks to score in double figures, and their combination of depth and athleticism proved problematic for Mike Brey’s team. All five Notre Dame starters scored in double figures, with Demetrius Jackson’s 20 leading the way, but the lack of depth proved problematic as the game wore on.

Notre Dame didn’t get a single point from its bench, with Matt Farrell and Matt Ryan combining to play 28 minutes. That lack of depth not only cost Notre Dame Thursday night, but it’s something they’ll have to figure out if they’re to be a contender in the ACC. Jackson and Steve Vasturia ran into foul trouble against Monmouth, and the lack of a bench option capable of picking up the slack led to Monmouth building up a ten-point lead in the second half.

Notre Dame tried to account for that by slowing down the tempo, but in doing so they struggled to find quality looks against the Monmouth defense. And given the players at Rice’s disposal, it’s tough to slow the game down against a team that can get after you on both ends of the floor.

Monmouth entered this season with expectations of contending for a MAAC title alongside the likes of perennial favorites Iona and Manhattan, and their start to the season backs up that belief. With two players in Robinson and Deon Jones who have earned all-conference honors during their careers and a host of contributors that includes guards Je’lon Hornbeak and Micah Seaborn, this is a group to keep an eye on as the season wears on.

Because if they can earn a bid, Monmouth’s non-conference schedule will have them prepared for the NCAA tournament.