Aaron Craft's college career ended Thursday in the cruelest way imaginable.
The Ohio State point guard who has been lauded endlessly for his on-ball defense got beat off the dribble for the game-winning basket.
With 11th-seeded Dayton trailing the sixth-seeded Buckeyes by a point and 10.8 seconds remaining, Flyers guard Vee Sanford ignored a ball screen to his left, drove the other way by Craft and banked in a runner off the dribble with 3.8 seconds left. Craft had a chance to answer when he made a Tyus Edney-like dash up the floor, but his contested runner as time expired would not fall, enabling Dayton to celebrate a 60-59 upset victory.
[Photos: Relive the incredible Dayton upset]
That furious final sequence propelled Dayton into the round of 32 for the first time in five years and earned the Flyers a matchup with third-seeded Syracuse. Ohio State's season ended without an NCAA tournament victory for the first time since 2009, hardly the outcome anyone would have predicted when the Buckeyes began the season with 15 straight wins before a lack of scoring punch caught up with them in Big Ten play.
Craft tried to shoulder a heavier load offensively against Dayton, but his aggressiveness produced the same mixed results it has all season.
His legion of fans will note he scored 16 points, dished out four assists, made four steals and tied the game with a crucial 3-point play with 2:07 remaining. His legion of detractors will note that he committed five turnovers and made the foolish flagrant foul that enabled Dayton to extend its lead to three in the first place.
Of course, this game wasn't all about Craft even if he played a huge role with the contest in doubt in the final minutes. Five Dayton players had at least nine points as the Flyers kept Ohio State at arm's length much of the game thanks to balanced scoring, transition buckets and an ability to reach the foul line.
The win had to be especially sweet for Dayton since Ohio State has maintained an ironclad policy against scheduling the Flyers, Cincinnati, Xavier or any in-state foe during the regular season. Thad Matta has said he sees no value in a series against those teams because he believes out-of-state foes bring more national exposure.
Dayton got a rare chance against the Buckeyes on Thursday. To the delight of Flyers fans, they did not waste it.
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