Ohio State's LaQuinton Ross hits late 3 to move past Arizona in NCAA Tournament
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LOS ANGELES -- Ohio State needed another last-second shot, and Aaron Craft had the ball at the top of the key again. But last week's hero gave it up to the hottest hand on the floor, and LaQuinton Ross sent the Buckeyes to the brink of their second straight Final Four.
Ross hit the tiebreaking three-pointer with two seconds to play as Ohio State advanced to the West Regional final with a 73-70 victory over Arizona last night.
Ross scored 14 of his 17 points in the second half for the second-seeded Buckeyes (29-7), who rallied from an early 11-point deficit and earned their 11th straight win. Ohio State will face ninth-seeded Wichita State tomorrow.
"It feels great, man," Ross said. "I think this is what every player grows up looking at on TV, wanting to hit that big shot for an NCAA Tournament team. It just feels great right now."
Deshaun Thomas scored 20 points for Ohio State and Craft added 13 before ceding Ohio State's final shot to Ross when the Wildcats didn't make the proper switch on a screen.
"We switched probably 400 handoffs and ball screens in the game," Arizona coach Sean Miller said. "We didn't switch the last one. Whether he made the shot or not, I think we all live with it when it's challenged and we do what we're supposed to do. But part of the reason he had such a great look at the end, there was two guys went [the wrong way] when we'd switched every single handoff and ball screen from the opening tip to that one right there."
Ross was assigned Kobe Bryant's stall in the Lakers' locker room at Staples Center and nailed a shot that would have made the NBA star proud. "It was similar to the play we ran last game," Ross said. "We like to get the [big men] on a pick-and-roll. It so happened they messed up the switch there, and I was able to knock down the shot."
Craft hit an awfully similar three-pointer against Iowa State last Sunday to send the Buckeyes forward with a 78-75 victory, and Ross didn't flinch at his turn under pressure. "LaQuinton has really grown in a lot of areas," Ohio State coach Thad Matta said. "I think the biggest thing he's done is he's engaged himself in all the little things, and that's made him a better basketball player. We're proud of him."
Sixth-seeded Arizona couldn't get off a shot on its last-second inbounds heave, and the Wildcats' Mark Lyons (23 points) greeted Ross in the postgame handshake line with a joking "I can't stand you!"
"He's a good guy," said Lyons, who knows Ross from summer ball and whose acrobatic three-point play for the Wildcats (27-8) had tied it with 21.8 seconds left. "He's a great player, and that's one of my friends."
Wichita State 72, La Salle 58:Malcolm Armstead scored 18 points, Carl Hall added 16 and Ron Baker had 13 for the Shockers (29-8). Jerrell Wright and Tyrone Garland led 13th-seeded La Salle (24-10) with 16 points each.