Disappointment Lingers For Craft

It wasn't his best game, but Aaron Craft answered questions about the Michigan loss for 16 minutes, 31 seconds in the locker room after the game. The senior spoke about his disappointment in his play but also noted that the Buckeyes played well for large stretches of the game and just couldn't match Michigan's early firepower.

Deep in the bowels of Bankers Life Fieldhouse, in the bare-bones locker room setup where Ohio State dressed, Buckeyes senior point guard Aaron Craft walked in, sat down in front of his locker and sighed.

He was still fully dressed in his scarlet uniform, from jersey down to untied shoes, having just come from the interview podium and now forced to answer more of the same questions in a cramped setting.

As other teammates wrapped up their interviews, showered and got dressed, Craft faced a herd of beat writers and TV cameras waiting to discuss Ohio State's 72-69 loss to Michigan in the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament.

For 16 minutes and 31 seconds, he sat there and answered question after question, many of them repetitive as reporters wandered back and forth between his teammates and head coach Thad Matta. His arms remained crossed on his chest, and his answers were often brief. But through roughly 40 questions, he owned every single aspect of his performance – which happened to be one of his worst.

Less than half an hour earlier, he was streaking down the court down three with five seconds left, looking for a way to send the Buckeyes to overtime against Michigan, the No. 1 seed in the Big Ten Tournament. Down three points, he pulled up for the game-tying shot, only to watch as the ball slipped out of his hands and time expired.

Game over – thanks to an imperfect moment from a noted perfectionist.

"It sucks," he said. "I'm more disappointed in myself than anything else. Our team showed tremendous fight and resiliency tonight. It was very unfortunate that it had to end the way it did and the way that I kind of played down the stretch, but you can't change it. You have to chalk it up as another learning experience."

It wasn't the finest game for one of the biggest winners in program history. After picking up his fourth foul with 11:44 left in the second half, Craft sat all the way until there were less than three minutes left in the contest. During that span, Ohio State turned a five-point deficit into a one-point lead.

Craft said that he never asked Matta to put him back in during the stretch when he sat. Instead, he focused all his attention on supporting his teammates from the sidelines.

"They never wavered, and they found a way to continue to fight," he said. "I just want to be the most excited guy on the bench, doing what I can do. Seeing them get the lead and fight the way they did, that's all I can ask for."

With its most decorated player back on the court, Ohio State missed its final five shots and three of four free throws. Two of those bricks at the line belonged to Craft, who also missed a three-point attempt and bobbled another that never made it up.

Unsmiling but also unflinching, Craft again minced no words about his play.

"I'm disappointed in myself, obviously," he said. "I came in down the stretch and didn't make some free throws and missed a couple of shots that our team needed us to make."

On occasions in which reporters tried to sugarcoat the loss in their questions, Craft wasn't having much of their efforts. Without anyone once using the term in a question, the senior mentioned three separate times that he wasn't a fan of moral victories.

He did, however, put the loss into context. Michigan raced out to a 15-2 lead thanks to an offensive onslaught from behind the arc and ultimately buried eight three-pointers in the first half. Ohio State played easily its best game of the tournament but couldn't quite fend off an opponent that finished 12 of 23 from three-point range.

"We outrebounded them. We scored more points in the paint. We scored more points in transition. Scored more second-chance points," Craft said. "They made 12 threes. They shot 50-something percent from the three-point line. You know, some of them are open, some of them aren't. It's tough, and it really is unfortunate when you have to go out like that. But they're a great team, and they're playing great basketball right now."

At the end of the day, though, he mostly sounded like a 23-year-old who lost to a rival in a postseason tournament.

"There's still some good we can take out of it, but it's a three-hour bus ride home," he said. "Lot of time to think on the way back."

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