Holding a 64-61 lead in the final seconds, Kansas elected to foul Ohio State rather than allow the Buckeyes to shoot a game-tying three-point shot. OSU point guard Aaron Craft absorbed the foul by Kansas guard Travis Releford and stepped to the free throw line. With 2.9 seconds remaining on the clock, the Buckeyes' sophomore point guard would likely have to make the first shot. Done. As the valedictorian of his high school class, Craft knew that he'd have to intentionally miss the second shot in hopes of a quick tip-in or putback bucket to level the score.
In a tournament that has yet to produce a buzzer beater, Craft did his best to provide a memorable finish. Instead, we got one that was quite confusing. After the referee handed Craft back the ball following his first made free throw, the guard quickly fired it toward the rim and dashed into the paint in hopes of beating everyone else to the ball. He did. However, he was too quick off the free throw line and whistled for a lane violation.
According to Article 2 of Section 1 under Free Throw Violations and Penalties in the NCAA rule book:
c. The free-thrower shall not break the vertical plane of the free-throw line with either foot until the ball strikes the ring, flange or backboard or until the free throw ends.
Thanks to his overeager sprint off the line, Craft was indeed the first to the ball. His quick shot did not drop and the rebound, after the whistle, was grabbed by Thomas Robinson of Kansas. As Craft and his Ohio State teammates looked to the referees for an explanation and the sideline for direction, Robinson tossed the ball to Releford, who handed it to the one of the referees. As CBS cameras showed replays of Craft's lane violation -- and, yes, he clearly broke the plane before the ball hit the rim -- Kansas was getting on with the game.
Releford inbounded the ball to Elijah Johnson and those last 2.9 seconds ticked off the game clock before the Buckeyes or the broadcast crew had fully digested what had just taken place after the free throw attempt. Kansas and the Jayhawks fans in attendance at the Superdome were elated while the Ohio State players looked absolutely stunned.
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