Ohio State's Aaron Craft, bottom, goes for the steal against Iona's David Laury. Craft averages 2.12 steals, No. 33 in the country.


Up one with 1:43 to play Sunday, Iowa State's Will Clyburn drove down the right lane and to the basket.

Off the ball, Ohio State point guard Aaron Craft ran across the key, planted his feet and waited for Clyburn to jump into him on the layup.

The whistle blew.

Craft got the charge call, though replays showed his right heel was above the semicircle below the basket, from which off-the-ball defenders cannot draw one.

Had Craft been called for a block, the Cyclones would have been up three, with Clyburn shooting a free throw to possibly make it four.

Instead, with 1:41 to play, OSU got the turnover, overcame the one-point deficit, and won 78-75 when Craft broke a tie with a three-pointer with less than a second left.

Whether the call was correct is one question - "There's no such thing as a perfect ref, and there's not robots out there," UA forward Solomon Hill said diplomatically Monday - but another fact is not in dispute.

"They don't foul," UA coach Sean Miller said.

The 28-7 Buckeyes, the Arizona Wildcats' Sweet 16 opponent Thursday, avoid whistles the way a dog would.

This year, only 31 defenses have posted a better free-throw rate, which, as defined by Ken Pomeroy of KenPom.com, calculates the number of opponent's free throws attempted per field goals tried.

Twice since Thad Matta took over at OSU in 2005, the Buckeyes' defense has finished No. 1 in the country in opponent free-throw rate.

Twice, OSU was No. 2.

Two more times, it placed in the top 10.

"His teams are always the best at not fouling," Miller said. "That's one of the reasons they're such a good defensive team - and make you score from the field."

Miller credits OSU's "extreme discipline," and Matta has talked for years about his defenders getting in good position long before the ball comes their way.

"They're a great defensive team," Miller said. "Great."

That starts with Craft, one of the nation's best on-ball defenders.

"If he's not one of your favorite players, then you don't like college basketball," Miller said.

The junior point guard averages 2.12 steals, No. 33 in the country.

He steals the ball on 3.91 percent of possessions, per Pomeroy, making him No. 74 among all players in Division I-A basketball.

"He puts a lot of emphasis and energy on defense," Miller said. "He's also talented in that area.

"There are a lot of guys that play hard, but they're limited. He has exceptional quickness, quick hands, they're strong and he anticipates really well."

Because of Craft, the Buckeyes pressure the point guard and defend ball screens differently than most teams in the country.

"They're very tough on the ball," Hill said. "They like to switch sometimes. If you're trying to go one-on-one, that's not really the formula to beating them.

"If you look at how Iowa State made their comeback, it was a lot of screens, a lot of guys getting open for threes.

"It's not the first option - it's the second or third option that's going to be open with them.

"And we have to screen. I think that's going to be the key. If you don't screen, there's not going to be easy baskets."

Shaking Craft - who figures to guard UA point guard Mark Lyons - won't be that easy. Lyons will be aware of Craft's reputation, Hill said.

"You're talking to a New York point guard - I don't think he's really going to change for anybody at this point," Hills said of Lyons. "I think he'll be more aware that Aaron Craft likes to steal the ball, he likes to take charges.

"He'll watch out for him."

The Wildcats had better.

Whether Craft drew the charge Sunday is irrelevant, Miller said.

The point is, he was there.

"He always puts his team in a position to receive that call, because he draws charges, he plays so hard, he dives on the floor for loose balls," Miller said. "Guys like him a lot of times get that call because of who they are and because they've earned it throughout the course of the game.

"He seems to always be in the right place. When he's in that position late in the game, it's as if he's in the right place."

On StarNet: See photos of Ohio State at azstarnet.com/gallery

No foul

Ohio State is one of the nation's best programs at not committing fouls, UA coach Sean Miller said.

Ken Pomeroy's free throw rate for OSU's defense bears that out.

His calculation - opponent's free throws tried per field goals attempted - has listed OSU among of the nation's best since coach Thad Matta took over in 2005.

Here's a look at where they've ranked nationwide, in the stat:

Year Rate Natl. Rank

2013 29% 35

2012 29.1% 29

2011 20.6% 1

2010 26.4% 8

2009 24.6% 4

2008 22.1% 1

2007 21.6% 2*

2006 21.6% 2

2005 29.4% 32

* Arizona was No. 1 that season