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Buckeyes hope their NCAA experience pays off against Flyers

Ohio State senior Aaron Craft led the Buckeyes onto the court for practice Wednesday at the First Niagara Center. An NCAA tournament veteran, Craft knew better than to start firing up shots before Ohio State’s practice officially started at 1:30 p.m.

“Can we touch the balls yet?” Craft asked.

“Don’t touch the balls,” a teammate advised.

The No. 6 seed Buckeyes, who play the Flyers in the second round at 12:15 p.m. today, have been here before, and it shows in moments like that.

“I think it helps a lot, just knowing what the routine is, being able to know when you have to concentrate and get things done,” Craft said. “Lenzelle (Smith Jr.) and I have been here for four years now. Just because we’ve had a little bit of success before doesn’t necessarily mean we’ll have success now, but I think it helps us prepare ourselves mentally for what the NCAA tournament means and what it’s about.

“It’s very easy to get caught up in everything that’s different with the media going on right now and open practice and things like that, but I think we’ve gone through it enough that we can help lead our team to be ready to play tomorrow.”

Matta on Miller: Archie Miller was on Ohio State coach Thad Matta’s staff for two seasons. In fact, the Dayton coach was an Ohio State assistant in 2008, the last time the Buckeyes played the Flyers.

But Matta’s relationship with Miller goes back a lot farther than that.

“I’ve known Archie since he was in seventh grade,” Matta said, “when Sean and I were at Miami (in Oxford). To see him take his team and get them into the NCAA tournament, I couldn’t be happier. The fact that we’re playing each other, I think that’s kind of the irony of coaching. But as I’ve said, the longer you do this: A. You work with a lot of different people. B. Paths are going to cross. I wish we weren’t playing, but it is who we are playing and we’ve got to be ready to go.”

Close calls: The Buckeyes are 11-5 in their last five NCAA tournament appearances. Their five losses are by two, three, two, two and four points.

“One of the biggest focuses coming into this tournament is valuing every possession,” Craft said. “Since Lenzelle and I have been in college, the margin of defeat for us in the NCAA tournament has been very little, and it comes down to one or two possessions a game. That one or two possessions doesn’t necessarily mean the last two in the game. It could be the first two in a game.”

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