Aaron Craft can be a first-class irritant. He’ll be in the opposing player’s face from minute one of a game.
That doesn’t mean you can smack him in the neck, however.
That’s what Derrick Nix did with less than two minutes remaining in the Big Ten semifinal, earning himself a Flagrant 1 at a crucial moment. The resulting free throws added to Craft’s stellar day, pushing him over 20 points in the contest.
Nix wasn’t the only goat for the Spartans, however. Mere moments prior, Adreian Paine decided to roll the ball in-bounds to Appling. The only problem there was that it was far too early in the game to attempt such a maneuver, and even if it had been warranted, Appling was looking at his bench at the time, and had no idea the ball was coming his way. Buckeye Shannon Scott swooped in and snatched the ball off the hardwood, forcing Payne to foul him.
Upperclassman cool was the order of the day for Ohio State, which was led by Craft’s 20 points, eight assists and four steals. It was Craft’s biggest game since February 24th, when he scored 21 points against… Michigan State. DeShaun Thomas had a 16 point, seven rebound day in support of Craft.
The Buckeyes advance to face Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game. The teams split during the regular season, with the Buckeyes taking a low-scoring affair in Columbus, but getting blown out 71-49 at the Kohl Center. The Badgers did a masterful job on Craft in that second regular-season meeting, holding him to just four points and, even more stunning, one assist.
The Big Ten title may well hinge on whether Bo Ryan’s troops can smother the red-hot junior point guard in Chicago tomorrow.
Eric Angevine is the editor of Storming the Floor. He tweets @stfhoops.