Ohio State's Jared Sullinger shoots over Gonzaga's Robert Sacre in...

Ohio State's Jared Sullinger shoots over Gonzaga's Robert Sacre in the second half of an NCAA tournament third-round college basketball game. Ohio State won 73-66. (March 17, 2012) Credit: AP

PITTSBURGH -- Gonzaga was hanging tough, as usual, against a favored, major conference opponent when Kevin Pangos put up a three-pointer from the right corner that looked good to everyone in the building, himself included.

"It felt really good,'' the freshman guard said. "It just came off my hand nice. I thought it was good, for sure. But it rolled out.''

With it went Gonzaga's upset hopes, as No. 2 seed Ohio State held on for a 73-66 win Saturday and a berth in the NCAA East Regional semifinals vs. Cincinnati or Florida State Thursday in Boston.

It is Ohio State's third consecutive trip to the Sweet 16 and 14th overall.

The score was tied at 61 with 4:03 left and it was 64-61 when Pangos missed with 1:24 on the clock. Soon Ohio State's star forward, Jared Sullinger, was making a tough inside shot with 1:03 left to make it 66-61, then two free throws with 33.5 seconds left to give the Buckeyes a seven-point lead. That was that.

Sullinger and forward Deshaun Thomas scored 18 apiece as Ohio State's starting five scored all 73 points. But the game's most stellar statistical line belonged to guard Aaron Craft, who had 17 points, shooting 7-for-9 from the field, with 10 assists, three steals and two turnovers. He played all 40 minutes.

"He wants to play,'' coach Thad Matta said. "I was checking his pulse there throughout the course of the game, just saying, 'You OK?' He's smiling, saying, 'I can go all day.' And he can do that.''

No. 7 seed Gonzaga (26-7) was the last team left from the Pacific Time Zone, but they usually enjoy the support of neutral fans. "We still are America's team,'' senior center Robert Sacre said. "I don't want people to forget that. We just wanted to thank everybody who does support us.''

For No. 2 seed Ohio State (29-7), the ups and downs of Sullinger have been a focus of intense interest for those who follow the Buckeyes, and it will continue to be as their run continues. He again had his good and bad moments, but he did score six of the seven points in a 7-0 late run.

"He's a winner,'' Matta said. "We'll ride that down the stretch.''