DAYTON, Ohio — Aaron Craft dribbled in place at the top of the arc, watching to see if any of his Ohio State teammates were getting open near the basket for a game-winning shot.
The point guard had a clear look at the clock as it raced toward zero atop the backboard. He realized what he had to do — take a little Ohio State tournament history into his hands.
Craft held the ball until he had no other choice, then swished a 3-pointer with a half-second left Sunday for a 78-75 victory over Iowa State, sending the Buckeyes to a school-record fourth straight trip to the round of 16.
No. 2 Ohio State had managed to escape as the lone high seed left in the NCAA tournament’s most-busted bracket.
“The moment’s a lot bigger than me,” said Craft, who had allowed Iowa State to catch up with missed free throws and an errant jumper. “It just happened to be in my hands at the end.”
Ohio State (28-7) needed Craft’s fearless shot — over 6-foot-7 defender Georges Niang — to avoid yet another upset in the oh-so-wild West Regional. Four of the top five seeds fell fast and hard in the first weekend.
The Buckeyes’ 10th straight win sent them to Los Angeles for a game on Thursday against sixth-seeded Arizona.
“With all that’s gone on in college basketball, anything’s possible,” Craft said. “You can see it with what’s gone on in our bracket right now.”
Tenth-seeded Iowa State (23-12) overcame a late 13-point deficit by hitting 3s — the Cyclones’ specialty — but wound up beaten by one, a tough way to have their upset bid end.
“We played our hearts out,” said Will Clyburn, who scored 17 points. “It was a tough game and he made a tough shot. He made a great play.”