Aaron Craft crossed his arms and gently tapped the back of his head against the brick wall in the concourse of Bryce Jordan Arena. He needed to calm himself before the questions started. This wasn’t the first time Craft stood in the bowels of an opposing Big Ten arena in defeat. Now a senior, Craft has been there many times before, even in very successful Ohio State seasons. But though he wore familiar mannerisms when the questions started, Craft emerged from the locker room differently. He slammed the door open in frustration, showing an anger that hasn’t been typical during his career. Perhaps it's because Craft has never been here before. He hasn’t felt many losses like No. 20 Ohio State’s 65-63 defeat at last-place Penn State on Thursday. “Obviously down the stretch (of seasons) since I have been here we have done a good job of finding ways to win,” Craft said. “This is tough … But what can you do?” Things were supposed to be the same for Craft. Instead, he'll deal with heading into the NCAA Tournament like this. It has been nearly a month since the Buckeyes fell to Penn State on their home floor – the lowest point of the season – and in the time since Ohio State won six games and turned around a season that once felt doomed. But after senior guard Lenzelle Smith Jr. missed what would have been go-ahead threes on each of the Buckeyes’ final two possessions, Ohio State (22-7, 9-7 Big Ten) fell to the last-place Big Ten team for the second time this season. And March is only two days away. “The whole game we never found a way to get ourselves out of it,” Craft said. “We can’t do that. That can’t be us unless we want to be home early or we want the offseason to start as soon as possible. That can’t be us.” For a large portion of the game, it wasn’t. Why? Because Craft picked up his second foul midway through the first half and sat until the break. The Buckeyes, who led by as many as 11 in the first half, were hampered without their senior leader on the floor. Ohio State coach Thad Matta emphatically disagreed with the call, but corralled his emotions as Craft came out of the game and headed toward the bench. Penn State (14-14, 5-10) switched to a zone defense and chipped away at Ohio State’s lead before only trailing by two at halftime.
Buckeyes swept by last-place Penn State with 65-63 loss
Cleveland Plain Dealer | Feb 28