Craft sparks late rally as No. 3 Buckeyes edge Irish


By JIM O’CONNELL

AP Basketball Writer

NEW YORK — It looked like Ohio State’s winning streak to start the season was over.

The third-ranked Buckeyes were down eight points to Notre Dame with less than 2 minutes to play and their offense was nowhere to be found.

They still had their tough defense and somehow they were able to turn the game completely around and beat the Fighting Irish 64-61 on Saturday night in the BlackRock Gotham Classic at Madison Square Garden.

“I don’t really know what happened. It was a big blur,” Ohio State senior guard Aaron Craft said. “We never stopped. We never gave up. Guys were running around getting tips and guys made big free throws.”

While a few players did come up with big defensive plays, it was mostly one guy who made the free throws for the Buckeyes (12-0).

Lenzelle Smith Jr. scored seven of his nine points in the final 33 seconds — including going 5 of 5 at the line — to lead the rally.

“I’m still trying to figure out what happened,” Ohio State coach Thad Matta said. “My mind was fixated on if we wanted to foul with the time situation or do we play it out defensively and all of a sudden it was closer and closer and closer and we get the lead. It happened quick, It was a great win.”

The Buckeyes went 9:10 without a field goal and at one point were 6 of 21 from the field as Notre Dame (8-4) opened what seemed to be a comfortable lead late.

Jerian Grant hit a 3-pointer as the shot clock was expiring to give the Fighting Irish a 58-50 advantage with 1:54 to play.

“I am so thoroughly disappointed,” Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said. “We had such a good chance at such a great win.”

The Buckeyes turned up the defensive intensity and they converted consecutive steals into a 58-56 deficit with 40 seconds to go.

Demetrius Jackson made two free throws for Notre Dame a second later.

Smith was fouled taking a 3-pointer and he made all three free throws to bring Ohio State within 60-59 with 32 seconds left.

Steve Vasturia, who was in the game because point guard Eric Atkins had fouled out, missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with 31 seconds left, his first free throw attempt of the season.

Smith scored down low on a nice pass by Craft to give the Buckeyes a 61-60 lead with 16 seconds to go. After a Notre Dame turnover, Smith made two free throws for a 63-60 lead with 9.8 seconds left.

Grant made one free throw with 6.7 seconds left and Craft made one free throw with 3.3 seconds left.

Jackson missed a potential tying 3 as the buzzer sounded.

“They really turned the heat up on us and flustered us. We had a hard time doing anything right,” Brey said. “We didn’t have Atkins but the other guys should have handled it better.”

LaQuinton Ross had 16 points and 11 rebounds for Ohio State while Amir Williams had 13 points and Shannon Scott and Craft both added 10.

Grant had 18 points for Notre Dame, which committed five of its 13 turnovers in the final 2 minutes, while Garrick Sherman had 14 and Pat Connaughton 13.

“I’m a senior and I have to find a way to not turn the ball over when we didn’t have our point guard in there,” Grant said.

The Buckeyes shot 34.5 percent in the second half (10 of 29, including missing all nine 3-point attempts). They went 9:10 without a field goal in the second half, and that’s when Notre Dame opened a 52-44 lead with 5:33 to play.

Williams dunked on the next possession to end Ohio State’s long drought.

“They packed that zone in and I don’t think we were trusting the system as much as we needed to,” Craft said. “We took some bad shots and didn’t attack. We were letting the missing offensively affect us defensively and let that get tied together and that’s not what good teams do.”

Notre Dame opened the second half on a 9-2 run that tied the game at 35. The run was started by a 3-pointer by Atkins, the Fighting Irish’s first in seven attempts from beyond the arc.

No. 18 KANSAS 86

GEORGETOWN 64

LAWRENCE, Kan. — Tarik Black and Joel Embiid both scored 17 points and No. 18 Kansas bludgeoned Georgetown 86-64 in the Hoyas’ first visit to Allen Fieldhouse.

Andrew Wiggins added 12 points and Naadir Tharpe had 10 for the Jayhawks (8-3), who pushed their non-conference home winning streak to 67 games.

The Hoyas (7-3) tried to use the kind of muscle that has suited them so well in the rough-and-tumble Big East, but all they did was get into debilitating foul trouble.

Markel Starks scored 19 points and D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera had 12 to lead the Hoyas. Bruising big man Josh Smith, who had been averaging 14.1 points, scored just five before fouling out. Moses Ayegba and Nate Lubick also fouled out as Kansas asserted its dominance in the post.

Kansas built its 44-34 lead thanks in part to a 14-3 run fueled by its defense. Georgetown at one point went more than 10½ minutes without a field goal, missing five straight attempts, turning the ball over and even getting hit with a shot-clock violation.

No. 19 KENTUCKY 93

BELMONT 80

LEXINGTON, Ky. — Julius Randle scored a career-high 29 points for Kentucky.

A week after a season-worst performance in a loss at North Carolina, the 6-foot-9 freshman forward was 8 of 10 from the field and grabbed 10 rebounds.

Kentucky (9-3) trailed until the 16:21 mark of the second half and constantly had to fight off challenges from the Bruins (8-5).

Aaron Harrison added 23 points for the Wildcats while 7-footer Willie Cauley-Stein had 16 points, seven rebounds and two blocks.

The Wildcats finished 32 of 58 from the field (55 percent), outrebounded the Bruins 42-25 and made 26 of 36 free throws.

Craig Bradshaw had 22 points while Drew Windler added 21, including five 3-pointers, for the Bruins, who shot 47 percent from the field and were 11 of 30 from behind the arc but still lost their third straight and fourth in five.

FLORIDA ST. 60

No. 22 UMASS 55

SUNRISE, Fla. — Florida State scored the game’s final six points, including two free throws by Ian Miller with 1:06 left that put the Seminoles ahead, and they handed Massachusetts its first defeat of the season.

Aaron Thomas scored 18 points for Florida State and his two free throws with 2 seconds left sealed the victory.

Florida State (8-3) beat a ranked team for the second time this season. UMass (10-1) had been off to its best start since 1995.

Chaz Williams’ driving layup put UMass ahead 55-54 with 1:51 to go, but the Minutemen failed to score on their final four possessions while committing two turnovers, including one when Cady Lalanne was called for hanging on the rim after he sank a dunk.

Lalanne scored 10 points and tied a career high with 15 rebounds. Derrick Gordon had 12 points for UMass, and Williams scored 10.

The Minutemen shot a season-low 33 percent and went 1 for 15 from 3-point range, including 0 for 12 by their starters. Their point total was a season low, 29 below their average.

Florida State had season lows in points and shooting, hitting just 37 percent. The Seminoles went 1 for 7 from 3-point range.

 

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