Craft Corrals Frazier, Sparks Buckeye Blowout of PSU
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Aaron Craft did what he does best Wednesday night and Ohio State’s agitator helped the Buckeyes do what they do best in a 78-54 win over Penn State at Value City Arena.
Photo by Jim Davidson
Craft scored 11 points and dished out three assists, but more importantly, he shut down the Big Ten’s leading scorer, Tim Frazier, as the 4th-ranked Buckeyes (18-3, 6-2 Big Ten) won their 37th-straight game at home.
“I thought Craft did a great job on him,” Penn State coach Pat Chambers said after the game.
“Yesterday in practice I had a couple of our second-team really get after Tim and play physical, play tough. I think that’s the way Craft plays. I think Craft got into Tim a little bit, mentally and physically.”
Ohio State’s sophomore point guard was in such a groove Wednesday that even his alley-oops were going in. With just over a minute remaining in the first half, Craft lobbed a 35-foot pass towards the rim for freshman Sam Thompson, who already has an alley-oop dunk up for Geico Play of the Year.
Photo by Jim Davidson
Thompson went up for the easy slam, but Craft’s pass went in the basket instead to give the Buckeyes a 38-15 lead over the Nittany Lions (10-12, 2-7).
“Everything kind of went according to plan, kind of how we drew it up in the huddle,” Thompson said with wry smile.
“I was going to streak down the left side and Craft was going to throw it up from half court and it was going to go in. I was kind of like a decoy.”
It was that kind of night for an Ohio State team that now has three-straight blowouts since their 79-74 loss at Illinois back on Jan. 10. Part of that is not taking teams like Penn State and Nebraska lightly.
“I think every team we play is a great team. There’s no off night in the Big Ten and Penn State is no exception,” Craft said.
“As a team, we’re trying to focus as much as we can right now on our next game against Michigan. March is a long way off. There’s a lot of time for us to get better, and that’s what we’re trying to focus on, just getting better every day and come and play as hard as we can in games.”
Frazier did end up with 16 points, but the Big Ten’s leading scorer shot just 6-of-17 from the floor and turned the ball over four times in 39 minutes. He came into the game averaging 19.4 points, 5.3 assists and 2.5 steals—all tops in the conference.
“Tim needs to come every night, unfortunately,” Chambers said.
“He has a tough job for this team. He can’t have any nights off.”
Despite Frazier’s individual success this season, Penn State has won only two Big Ten games all year. They just so happened to be against Purdue and Illinois, but the Nittany Lions lost 73-54 on Sunday at Indiana.
This was a similar game Wednesday, with Ohio State getting out to an 8-0 start before Chambers could call a timeout following an inside basket from Deshaun Thomas.
The Buckeyes led 19-6 at the 10-minute mark and held a 20-point lead, 38-18, at the half. They shot 50 percent from the field in the first half and went 9-of-11 at the free throw line while holding Penn State to just 22 percent from the floor and 2-of-10 behind the arc.
Sophomore forward Jared Sullinger had seven points and eight rebounds at the half, but finished with a game-high 20 points and 13 rebounds to go with a pair of blocks in 27 minutes.
“It was a very physical game. They kept me guessing on double teams. On the first play I caught it and Craft said they were coming off him, but they actually came off the feeder,” said Sullinger, who was 7-of-11 from the floor.
“I never got comfortable with the double-team, but with these guys knocking down shots and making the right plays, it was kind of easy for me to score on the inside.”
Senior William Buford was only 3-of-7 from the floor, but he added 15 points, nine rebounds and two assists in 32 minutes. The Buckeyes also got nine and seven from Thomas, along with 23 points from the bench.
Thompson was the first man off the bench in Thad Matta’s rotation Wednesday, and he chipped in with six points, three assists, two rebounds and a pair of blocks. He also threw down a nice alley-oop dunk.
Ohio State only made four threes in the game, including just 1-of-6 in the second half, but they shot 50 percent from the floor and 71 percent from the free throw line. Their lead hovered in the low 20’s for the first part of the second half, but Sullinger completed a three-point play off a nice assist from Shannon Scott to give OSU a 61-32 lead with 10:48 to play in the game.
Sullinger immediately went to the bench for the rest of the game, but Ohio State got eight points from J.D. Weatherspoon as they cruised to a 78-54 victory in front of the home crowd of 16,907.
They have already sold out Value City Arena for Sunday’s marquee matchup with rival Michigan (1 p.m. ET, CBS), who comes to Columbus tied for the top spot in the Big Ten standings with Ohio State.
“Michigan is ranked this year in the top-25 and they were a good basketball team last year,” Sullinger said.
“This year they’re growing to an elite program, but you always have to get up for Michigan. In every sport, if we clash, it’s always a rivalry.”
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