Aaron Craft dove to the Value City Arena floor for one last time with 29 seconds remaining Sunday. When he got up, every ounce of emotion he tried to hide the last week came to the surface with one hearty yell. The play was one of many signature moments in Craft's illustrious career, and this time it helped Ohio State hold off No. 22 Michigan State 69-67 in the regular season finale. It was the storybook ending for a career with so many chapters. But the game didn't end with that play. And that's why it's an even more fitting way for Ohio State's regular season to end. It almost ended with another heartbreaking loss. "The only thing that would have been better was if we had made our free throws," Ohio State coach Thad Matta said. "We could have dribbled the clock out and I would have relaxed." Ohio State acquired perhaps its biggest win of the year only after missing three of its final four free throw attempts – ones, that if made, would have sealed it – and watching Gary Harris miss the game-tying attempt as time expired. Had Harris made that shot, the Buckeyes (23-8, 10-8 Big Ten) could have been heading into the postseason with three consecutive losses. Matta's smile and sense of relief in the postgame news conference would have been replaced by saying what he's said all season - his team didn't do enough small things to win. Harris' shot was short, and Craft got the moment he deserved. Honored alongside fellow senior Lenzelle Smith Jr. before the game, Craft's yell was accompanied by passionate cheers from his home crowd for one last time. "He masks it," said John Craft, the point guard's father. "That emotion was what had been building up all week." So for the moment, Craft can enjoy this. Michigan State coach Tom Izzo referred to Craft's play as "poetic justice," and Matta said it was " the most fitting end in an Ohio State guy's career, in his last home game, to make that play." And Craft's take? You guessed it - about the future. "Down the stretch we haven't always made the plays we needed at the end of games this season," Craft said. "It was big that we were able to do that today ... Hopefully we can build off our momentum moving forward."
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Cleveland Plain Dealer | Mar 10