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Ross' 3-pointer sends Buckeyes to Elite Eight

The SportsXchange

LOS ANGELES -- In the span of about two minutes, Ohio State's LaQuinton Ross defined March Madness.

Ross took the long walk from the penthouse to the outhouse and then sprinted back up to the penthouse against Arizona in the Sweet 16 on Thursday.

Ross drained a deep 3-pointer with two seconds left to lift the Buckeyes to the Elite Eight with a 73-70 win over the Wildcats at Staples Center. The Buckeyes will play Wichita State in the West Regional final on Saturday.

"I've been saying this for a while, it seems, with the schedule we played, but that was about as high-powered a college basketball game as I've been a part of," Ohio State coach Thad Matta said. "You look at the plays that the Arizona players made, the players that the Buckeyes made. They're up 11, we get up 10. Just a battle."

In Ohio State's last miraculous win, a 78-75 victory over Iowa State in the round of 32, Aaron Craft was the hero, hitting the winning 3-pointer with a half-second left.

On Thursday, Ross was the hero, the goat and then the hero once more.

Ross dropped in a key layup to put Ohio State up 69-63 with 1:33 left but committed a costly foul on Wildcats guard Mark Lyons on a layup with 21 seconds left, giving Lyons the tying three-point play.

But an Arizona defense that coach Sean Miller said must have switched "400 times" against the Buckeyes failed to switch on the game's pivotal play.

Craft found a wide-open Ross well behind the 3-point line on the perimeter. Ross readied himself, aimed and calmly dropped a bomb on the Wildcats, sealing his name in tournament lore.

Ross did not shy away from the spotlight -- that he used the locker of Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant was not lost on him.

"I found out from one of the guys that works here it was Kobe Bryant's locker," Ross said with a wide smile. "Before we got here, I called dibs on it anyway, but I didn't know whose it was until he came in and told me. I was excited about that."

Arizona's Solomon Hill said, "We wanted to switch any ball screens, and he was a little wider out than we anticipated. He set the screen and Ross was kind of deep off the 3. It was a great shot by him.

"I did anticipate Craft driving to the hole and he faked the drive and kicked it out for a good shot. He's always making plays at the end of the game for his team."

The Buckeyes are the only team to advance to the Sweet 16 the last four years, but they were knocked out in that round the first two years before advancing to the Final Four last season.

The Buckeyes appeared to be heading to a surprising exit for much of the first half, when Arizona led by double figures. Ohio State played careful basketball -- committing just eight turnovers, though they had just nine assists -- and held Arizona to 39 percent shooting from the field in the second half.

"We feel like we started off slow," Buckeyes forward Dehsaun Thomas said. "Guys were being selfish, hugged up on their men, not helping each other out. I don't know what it was, heat of the moment, everybody was just too excited. But we picked it up in second half. Do what we do, Ohio State basketball."

Lyons led all scorers with 23 points, but the Wildcats had just one other player in double figures, Solomon Hill, who scored 16.

Ohio State had four players in double digits, led by Thomas' 20. Ross had 17, Craft 13 and Sam Thompson 11 for the Buckeyes.

NOTES: Arizona, along with Oregon, gave the Pac-12 its first pair of Sweet 16 berths since 2008, when Stanford UCLA and Washington State all reached the regional semifinals. ... Lyons' scoring explosion should not be a surprise. He led the Wildcats with 25 points per game in the team's first two NCAA Tournament wins over Belmont and Harvard. ... Likewise, Thomas entered the Sweet 16 on fire, having scored 23 points per game in tournament wins over Iona and Iowa State. ... Arizona held Belmont and Harvard to a combined 33 percent shooting from the field in the first two rounds. ... Ohio State owns the best record in the Big Ten since the beginning of the 2004-05 season, Matta's first year, at 249-72. ... The Wildcats, who hit 5 of 8 3-pointers in the first half against the Buckeyes, led the Pac-12 with 7.7 3-pointers per game.
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