With junior guard William Buford out with back spasms, freshman point guard Aaron Craft got his first start for the No. 3 Ohio State men’s basketball team, which defeated Morehead State, 64-45, on Tuesday.
Craft turned the ball over on his first possession, and was tested by the Eagles as they pressed the freshman guard throughout the game. Playing all 40 minutes, Craft scored seven points and added six assists to go along with five turnovers.
OSU coach Thad Matta said he was pleased with Craft’s effort in his starting debut.
“His defense was spectacular tonight. He was all over the place,” Matta said. “He broke a press for 40 minutes versus two guys and I thought he did a nice job. He had some big buckets for us.”
Morehead State played OSU to a highly contested first half, which saw the Eagles take a 17-15 lead with 7:27 remaining when Demonte Harper connected with Kenneth Faried for a one-handed alley-oop dunk. Craft answered back with four straight points for the Buckeyes, starting a 9-0 run for OSU.
The Buckeyes headed into the half with a 30-24 advantage following a 3-point shot by Jon Diebler. With forwards Dallas Lauderdale and Jared Sullinger handcuffed with two and three fouls respectively, Matta turned to a smaller lineup consisting of Craft, Diebler, Jordan Sibert, David Lighty, and Deshaun Thomas to close out the first half.
Sullinger was limited to just eight minutes of action in the first half and finished with eight points and eight rebounds.
Morehead State trailed 37-32 with 15:17 remaining in the game when Faried, who at that point had 13 points and eight rebounds, picked up his fourth foul. With Faried on the bench, the Eagles’ offense struggled to find a rhythm as the Buckeyes jumped out to a 46-35 lead.
“That was a pivotal part of the game,” Matta said. “We were able to get it inside there once he went out of the game.”
Following Faried’s return, the Eagles once again battled back, cutting the Buckeyes’ lead to 49-42 with less than seven minutes remaining before a freshmen-fueled 15-3 Buckeye run, with a combined 13 points coming from Thomas and Sullinger, closed out the Eagles for good.
In addition to Craft, Diebler and Lighty also both played all 40 minutes, with Diebler leading the team in scoring on a season-high 20 points. Lighty added 11 points, seven assists and five rebounds. Thomas added 16 points and seven rebounds.
Faried finished the game with 15 points and 12 rebounds for the Eagles.
“He was good, he was real active out there,” Thomas said. “He’s a great player.”
The Buckeyes’ next game is on Friday, when they host Miami University (OH).
“They’re a very good basketball team,” Diebler said. “They’re not going to be scared to come in here and play us with the schedule that they’ve played.”