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March 24, 2013

Aaron Craft

Thad Matta

LaQuinton Ross


Ohio State ¬Ė 78
Iowa State ¬Ė 75

THE MODERATOR:¬† We'll start with an opening statement by Coach Matta, if he'd like, and when Coach is finished, we'll open up the floor for questions for our student‑athletes.
COACH MATTA:  I think the thing I'm most proud of is the Ohio State University is the only team in college basketball that we're going to our fourth straight Sweet 16.  With this basketball team, that was something that we had talked about coming into the tournament.
That was about as high powered of a college basketball game as you could have.¬† There were great plays made by all the guys on the court.¬† We had said last night in a meeting that we'd like to get about a 12‑point lead knowing they were going to make a run at us.¬† I think we got to 13, and they definitely did that.
There's countless plays, obviously, the potential behind Aaron's shot, that was a tremendous basketball play.  He made a great read.  I'll let you talk to these guys about it.

Q.  Aaron, for you, the last shot, I don't know what was discussed in the huddle.  Share that with us, and then as the play developed, take us through it, please.
AARON CRAFT:  I had LaQuinton's screen and some back side action with Deshaun, obviously, coming off a couple, wanted to get him open, get him a shot.  They switched.
I got their biggest guy on me, made a read, and fortunately enough, it went in.

Q.  Aaron, how difficult is that?  You missed some free throws, and you had missed the jump shot before that went off the rim.  Did you put that out of your mind, or how did that affect you at all?
AARON CRAFT:  I was just trying to stay as focused and poised.  I did some things down the stretch I don't normally do.  Missed some shots and missed some free throws.
We had confidence in about three or four guys at the end that could take a shot.  This game just happened to be me, and I was able to knock it down.

Q.¬† Aaron, you waved Deshaun off, but is that‑‑ can you just talk about that? ¬†Obviously, the play was to him.¬† You had the big guy on you.¬† Is there any reluctance for you to do that at that point?¬† You're taking it all on.
AARON CRAFT:  No, just made a read.  If they wouldn't have switched, probably would have been a different play.  They switched.  I got their biggest guy.  Shot I took right before that felt pretty good.  I thought I could make the next one, and was able to do so.

Q.¬† Please tell us what that moment was like.¬† Did you have butterflies in your stomach?¬† How do you keep‑‑ how did you stay poised?¬† And the moment when you saw it switch in.
AARON CRAFT:¬† Just trying to stay as calm and poised as possible, probably a little‑‑ the moment is definitely bigger than me.¬† As a team, we did a great job down the stretch finding a way to hold on.¬† It just happened to be in my hands at the end of the game.
Once you see it go in, the first thing I think of is how much time is left?  What are they going to do?  Are they going to quick inbounds?  Find a way to get a stop before we can celebrate or anything like that.

Q.  LaQuinton, Aaron's situation doesn't happen unless you play maybe your best game at Ohio State.  What did you see in their defense that allows you to be so effective offensively?
LAQUINTON ROSS:  I think coming off the bench I have an advantage because I get to watch the pace of the game, and I get to see what those guys are doing, switches on pick and rolls and all that.  I was able to come in the game and set a few screens for Aaron and get open.  I was able to knock down a couple of shots.

Q.¬† Aaron, you alluded to some of those plays that weren't normal for you down the stretch.¬† Do you get‑‑ especially at the free‑throw line.¬† Do you get nervous?
AARON CRAFT:  I didn't feel nervous.  I missed a couple of front ends of the one and ones.  The biggest one I probably make of those two is probably the first one.  Just try to move on to the next play.  Didn't do anything about the play behind.  Did a good job of sticking together as a team.  A lot of time was left, and we were able to come out on top.

Q.  Aaron, would you have had the confidence two months ago in that same situation to take that shot?
AARON CRAFT:¬† I'd like to think so.¬† Everything that's gone on with us‑‑ our teammates still believe in me, and that's the biggest thing.¬† Coach also plays where there's multiple options and you don't have to focus on one guy.
If one play is taken away, the best part about this team is other guys can make plays.  LaQuinton could make a shot.  D.T. can obviously make shots like that.  Tonight was my turn, and we get to go on to the next round.

Q.¬† Aaron, I was just curious, growing up in Ohio, as a kid, you literally dream of hitting a game‑winning shot in the NCAA Tournament for Ohio State?
AARON CRAFT:¬† Growing up in Ohio, you always‑‑ Ohio State is always in the back of your mind, regardless of‑‑ I was always a football fan.¬† That's what kind of got me involved at first.
Coach has done a great job over the past few years of really bringing the basketball program along with it.  Just very blessed and fortunate to be able to be a part this and be able to make a shot like that for this university.
It feels great, and hopefully we can keep this thing going.

Q.  Aaron, you hadn't taken a 3 all game.  Did you know where you were, or were you just taking the shot, whatever it was, a 2 or 3, or were you cognizant that you were behind the arc?
AARON CRAFT:  I had a little awareness.  The shot I took before was a little inside the arc, and it felt pretty good.  Same type of situation.  I had the same guy on me.
Knew I had a little bit of space, so I didn't have to rush it too much.  Just got a good clean shot off, and it went in.

Q.  LaQuinton, can you talk about the effectiveness of the small lineup that you guys have been using much more of late, especially today.
LAQUINTON ROSS:  Our small group actually causes a mismatch problem for other teams.  They was out there with their big, and they found that me and D.T. was able to go up against the fours and match up with them really well.  It was great.
Our small group has been producing a lot for us.  Use them down the stretch.

Q.  Aaron, could you talk about that kind of thin line that you were walking between going home the goat and going home the hero?
AARON CRAFT:  I can't tell you it was crossing my mind too much during the game.  If it was, I probably would have missed.
I was in a good situation.¬† If I miss, we still go to overtime.¬† I don't think‑‑ it's not as big of a pressure situation.¬† Obviously, it's up there.¬† Like I said earlier, my teammates believed in me.¬† I'm just glad I could come through for them.

Q.  Did you ever actually play in the backyard, two seconds, one second, shoot?  I mean, most kids did, for Ohio State.
AARON CRAFT:  I think we know I'm a defensive guy.  So I think I'm in the backyard three, two, one, taking a charge something like that.
Every kid dreams of moments like that.  I'm just very blessed to be in this situation with this group of guys.  Like I said, it's great to come through for them, and it's great we can continue to play more basketball.

Q.  Aaron, in this region, where every top seed has gotten upset, it seems, do you guys look at that as a fan?  The regular fans look and say, oh, Ohio State has a great road now.  Is it the opposite for you guys?  Do you look at it and think, oh, anybody can do anything on any given day?
AARON CRAFT:  With what's gone on in college basketball this year, anything is possible.  You can see that going on with whatever is happening in our bracket right now.
As basketball fans, you kind of have an awareness of it, but the teams that are left, they're there for a reason, and they're not going to be slouches.  They're great teams.  What we have to do is enjoy this tonight, get back to Columbus, and find ways to get better before we play in the next game.
THE MODERATOR:  Aaron and LaQuinton, thank you.
Questions for Coach Matta.

Q.  Thad, Aaron said he didn't have anything going on in his mind but the next play.  What was going on in your mind when the play that you had to Deshaun got shut off and you knew that the guy who had had some trouble in the previous few minutes was going to have to take that shot?
COACH MATTA:  I saw the same thing Aaron saw.  It was right in front of us.  They switched it.  They made a good read.  They set the screen and switched.  The guy jumped up into the passing lane, to be honest.  When I saw Aaron, he was looking for what we had talked about.  I saw him look back, and he knew the big kid was on him.  I saw him get in his rhythm with each dribble.  The kid wasn't pushing up.
I was perfectly fine with the shot.  As Aaron said, I knew with the time, the situation, we were going into overtime if it didn't go in.
We had told him, when we took the time‑out, let's get the last shot and go for the win.¬† He could have timed it maybe.5 too long, but it was pretty good timing on his part.

Q.  Thad, the game might have separated there when you went small.  Can you talk about that lineup and why it's been so effective for you and maybe why didn't you go to it sooner.  Were you waiting for a special moment in the game?
COACH MATTA:  I think that we were very, very nervous in this game with their ability to spread us out.  We knew that there was going to come a time when we were going to play that lineup, that particular lineup.
I thought Shannon Scott was as good as he could be today, which was tremendous in what he gave us.  There wasn't a defining moment that we said now is when we're going to go to it.  We'd actually talked about starting it at halftime.  Those guys did a good job.  We got crushed on the glass today, and we've got to get that corrected, but as LaQuinton said, it got us some momentum.
Aaron and I were talking about it back there.  We missed the front end of the one and one.  When you miss that, it gives the team momentum to get back in it.  That was it.

Q.  I was wondering if Aaron's shot today reminds you of Ron Lewis against Xavier five years ago or six years ago.
COACH MATTA:¬† That one sent it to overtime.¬† I think from the standpoint‑‑ I hadn't thought about that.¬† I mean, it was definitely a big‑time shot.¬† I know that Michael had gone at Ron at a dribble and clipped his man for that shot.¬† I'm glad the shot went in, both of them.

Q.  Thad, Deshaun's not necessarily known for his defense.  In fact, the guys are down there giving him a hard time.  Can you just talk about that play at the end, he was in the right place.
COACH MATTA:  Huge steal.

Q.  Maybe he didn't mean to be there, I'm not sure, but he was there.
COACH MATTA:¬† It's funny because he was on his way recovering and got his hand up‑‑ we talk about it.¬† We drill it.¬† That was a big‑time play in the game, couldn't have been more excited when he made it.
He cramped, I think, after that, but that was‑‑ that was a great play.¬† They really had Deshaun out on the perimeter a lot today.¬† I thought he played pretty sound defensively after he got blitzed the first time on the dribble in the first half.

Q.¬† To follow up on that, that play‑‑ they ran that play, I think Niang had scored easily on the layup in the first half.¬† Talk about the toughness of your team, Deshaun especially at the end.¬† And, of course, taking the charge late, the defensive toughness that you guys always talk about.
COACH MATTA:¬† It has to be who we are, just in terms of‑‑ I am delighted that these guys have taken a lot of pride on the defensive end of the floor.¬† I don't like the fact that we give up 55 percent in the second half.
Those are the type of plays that we've had to make in this run.  We've won eight or nine in a row, whatever it is.  Those have been the type of plays down the stretch.
We told our guys going into this game, this is a Big Ten basketball game.  It's going to come down to the last couple of minutes.  We're going to have to be sound.  We're going to have to do the things, and, sure enough, we were right.

Q.  Thad, Craft says we've gone to the next thing, but how difficult is that?  He missed free throws.  He missed the layup.  He got loose with the ball, all kinds of stuff we've never seen him do in three years, and then he does what he does at the end.
COACH MATTA:  I hope that they have kind of my mindset.  We always talk about we play forward.  At one point we had that lead, and they tied it up.  We fouled Lucious on the and one.  I told the guys just relax.  We can't change anything that happened in the past.  Only thing we can do is play out the last four minutes here and try to win the basketball game.  We can't change anything that's happened.
Aaron, he definitely listens.

Q.  Thad, you talked about the rebounding advantage they have, but even though you played small most of the second half, their offensive rebounding really didn't come into play down the stretch as much as it had earlier in the game.
COACH MATTA:  That's because they were making them in the second half.

Q.  I was going to say what happened to at least help you to at least stem that tide.
COACH MATTA:  Well, we said we're not going to rebound because we let them make it on the first shot.
Honestly, we were challenging our guys.¬† They spread you‑‑ they do such a good job of spreading you.¬† So those guys have such running starts coming in.¬† We did not‑‑ we were playing flat‑footed when the ball went up, and those were the things.
We had balls hit us in the hands.  We don't come up with them.  Those are things we've got to get corrected.
THE MODERATOR:  Thad, thank you.  Good luck against Arizona.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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