Ohio State men's basketball: Craft, Scott a winning combination
Aaron Craft, right, had 15 points, four assists and four steals in a victory over Indiana on Tuesday night.
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Coach Thad Matta has said often during his tenure at Ohio State that some of the best teams he has coached have had two point guards on the floor.
No one knows where this team will end up ranking among Matta’s best. But after their upset victory at No. 2 Indiana on Tuesday, the Buckeyes clearly are playing the best they have this season with two point guards in tandem.
Aaron Craft and Shannon Scott were on the floor together for much of the second half as No. 14 Ohio State dug out of a five-point hole, built an 11-point lead — Indiana’s largest deficit of the season — and rode it to a 67-58 victory in the Hoosiers’ last home game of the season.
The victory prevented Indiana from clinching the Big Ten title outright and maintained the Buckeyes’ hopes of gaining a share of their fourth consecutive title. With a victory over Illinois at home on Sunday, Ohio State would ensure itself a first-round bye in the Big Ten tournament and could earn a share of the title, if Indiana loses at Michigan.
Craft finished with 15 points, four assists and four steals. Scott had eight points, three assists and four steals and set an accelerated pace that created the easy baskets the Buckeyes have been talking about getting all season but never got enough of until lately.
“Shannon was tremendous,” Matta said. “The thing he did was just (use) his ability to push the basketball. We got some easy baskets off our defense, and that was something we haven’t done all the time.”
Ohio State scored 14 fast-break points to Indiana’s two and had 16 points off the Hoosiers’ turnovers.
“We knew they were a transition team, and a lot of transition teams don’t get back on defense, they kind of settle,” Scott said. “I knew if I started going back at them, they were going to start wearing down and getting tired. I tried to focus on that and it really helped me out.”
Ohio State trailed by five points early in the second half before engineering a 16-6 run in which Scott had two baskets, set up two free throws for himself with a steal, assisted on a transition basket by Evan Ravenel and blocked a shot that led to a fourth basket.
The run put Ohio State ahead 50-45 with 7:18 left, and the Buckeyes played with the lead the rest of the way.
An 11-2 increased the lead to 61-50 with 3:15 left. Craft made the first two baskets with time on the shot clock about to expire. Scott assisted on a run-capping dunk after another one of his steals.
“We did not protect the ball the way we needed to,” Indiana coach Tom Crean said. “They were leading the league in steals on the road, and they had those steals tonight and a lot of them were live-ball turnovers that just turned into buckets for them.”
Scott started receiving more playing time after Indiana defeated Ohio State 81-68 on Feb. 10, the most points the Buckeyes have surrendered this season. In the past four games, they have turned up their intensity on defense and outscored opponents by 39 points off turnovers. Scott totaled 25 points, 17 assists and 13 steals in that stretch.
“He’s had a great way about him,” Matta said, “and it’s obviously coming at the right time. I’ve been pleased. He’s such a great kid, he’s always smiling, he wants to do well and it’s all paying off for him.”