I had the perfect view for perhaps the best assist I've ever seen in 34 years as a sportswriter during Ohio State's 98-66 victory over George Mason Sunday in the third round of the NCAA East Regional at Quicken Loans Arena.
It came with 8:24 left in the first half and was one of an OSU NCAA tournament record of 15 by freshman point guard Aaron Craft. Surrounded by two George Mason defenders and with his view seemingly obstructed, Craft somehow got the ball to freshman center Jared Sullinger, who laid it in and was fouled. Sullinger made the free throw for a four-point play and a 29-22 lead.
The play was the start of a 23-2 run by OSU that broke the game open.
"He can catch the ball, so I just had to put it in an area where he could grab it,'' Craft explained. "The guy guarding Dave was in between. So I took a chance and threw it to Sully and he was able to catch it and finish it for me.''
Craft also got an assist out of a scrum for a loose ball when he passed to Jon Diebler from the seat of his pants.
"I was upset I lost the ball in the first place,'' Craft said. "So I happened to see Jon's guy come off and try to get it and I happened to get it to him.''
Craft's 15 assists were the fourth-best single-game mark in NCAA Tournament history, going into this year's play. (Apparently records will not be updated until after the weekend's games were completed.)
"As you get to know Aaron, you spend time with him, you watch him develop, it's amazing,'' OSU coach Thad Matta said. "He's been so steady throughout the course of the year. I'm excited for him to get 15 assists because he's a goal-oriented guy. I know before his time is over he's going to beat that record.''
Craft had seven assists on Friday against UT-San Antonio. Before Sunday, his season-high was nine assists against North Carolina A&T.
I can only imagine how much better Craft's going to get. Of course, he has a rapport with Sullinger from AAU ball, which helped encourage Craft to take such a chance. I felt like I was watching a young shortstop's coming-out party with an amazing display on his sport's biggest stage. And the stage only gets bigger next Friday in Newark against Kentucky.
Will we witness the emergence of another OSU point guard just as we did with Mike Conley Jr. in the 2007 NCAA Tournament? At least Matta won't have to worry about Craft turning pro.
Other thoughts from Sunday's game: