Cloudy
47°
Cloudy
Hi 53° | Lo 35°

LaQuinton Ross’s late 3 sends Ohio St past Arizona

  • Arizona's Mark Lyons tumbles in front of Ohio State's Deshaun Thomas during the first half of a West Regional semifinal in the NCAA men's college basketball tournament, Thursday, March 28, 2013, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

    Arizona's Mark Lyons tumbles in front of Ohio State's Deshaun Thomas during the first half of a West Regional semifinal in the NCAA men's college basketball tournament, Thursday, March 28, 2013, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Arizona's Mark Lyons tumbles in front of Ohio State's Deshaun Thomas during the first half of a West Regional semifinal in the NCAA men's college basketball tournament, Thursday, March 28, 2013, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

    Arizona's Mark Lyons tumbles in front of Ohio State's Deshaun Thomas during the first half of a West Regional semifinal in the NCAA men's college basketball tournament, Thursday, March 28, 2013, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

  • Arizona's Mark Lyons tumbles in front of Ohio State's Deshaun Thomas during the first half of a West Regional semifinal in the NCAA men's college basketball tournament, Thursday, March 28, 2013, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
  • Arizona's Mark Lyons tumbles in front of Ohio State's Deshaun Thomas during the first half of a West Regional semifinal in the NCAA men's college basketball tournament, Thursday, March 28, 2013, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

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 3-pointer with two seconds to play, and Ohio State advanced to the West Regional final with a 73-70 victory over Arizona last night.

Ross, Ohio State’s remarkable reserve, 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. With Ross making a series of tough shots capped by that dramatic 3, Ohio State weathered the sixth-seeded Wildcats’ late charge for its 11th consecutive victory since mid-February.

“It feels great, man,” said Ross, a once-ballyhooed recruit who has grown into a bigger role in the past two months. “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 the Buckeyes’ screen. Ross coolly drilled his second 3-pointer and set off a wild celebration in the Ohio State section of the Arizona-dominated crowd.

Craft hit an awfully similar 3-pointer against Iowa State last Sunday to send the Buckeyes forward with a 78-75 victory, but Ross didn’t flinch at his turn under pressure in this increasingly magical Ohio State season.

“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.”

Arizona couldn’t get off a shot on its last-second inbounds heave, and Mark Lyons greeted Ross in the postgame handshakes with a joking “I can’t stand you!”

Lyons’S acrobatic three-point play for the Wildcats (27-8) had tied it with 21.8 seconds left, thanks to a foul by Ross. But Ross knew he might be in for a special moment when he was assigned Kobe Bryant’s stall in the Lakers’ locker room at Staples Center – and he 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.”

Tomorrow, Ohio State will face the winner of the late game between underdogs Wichita State and La Salle. As the only top-eight seed left in the West, the Buckeyes will be Atlanta-bound with one more win.

Sam Thompson added 11 points for the Buckeyes, who trailed for nearly the entire first half before pushing ahead and nursing a small lead throughout the final minutes.

Lyons scored 23 points, including his gutsy three-point play for the Wildcats, who rallied from a 10-point deficit in the second half before falling just short of their second NCAA regional final in four years. Solomon Hill added 16 points in his native Los Angeles, but the rest of Arizona combined for just 31 points on 10-for-29 shooting.

“I tried to force the issue too much to get back on the hot start,” Lyons said.

After Arizona jumped out to that early 11-point lead, Ohio State gathered its game and mounted a 33-13 surge spanning halftime, taking a 53-43 lead with 11 minutes left. The Wildcats finally answered, but Ross kept the Buckeyes in front with nine consecutive points down the stretch.

Although Arizona Coach Sean Miller lamented his team’s coverage mistake on the final possession, he still praised his players.

“I’m proud of our guys’ effort,” Miller said. “We tried hard, and losing in this tournament when you play hard to the end hurts more in the beginning, but I think you leave with a lot of pride knowing you played your heart out.”

The game was the second NCAA tournament meeting between Matta and Miller, whose friendship goes back two decades to their time together at Miami of Ohio and Xavier.

Ohio State hasn’t lost since Feb. 17, beating Indiana on the road before winning the Big Ten tournament. The Buckeyes had much more trouble than Arizona in their first two NCAA games, but they’re showing a knack for last-minute heroics at the perfect time.

Arizona took the lead on its first basket, a 3-pointer from Lyons in the opening minute, and held it throughout a slow-moving first half featuring 19 fouls. With superior ball movement and scoring balance, the Wildcats eventually pushed the margin to 31-20 on Nick Johnson’s 3-pointer with seven minutes left in the half.

Ohio State finally awoke when Craft returned to the game after sitting early with two fouls, trimming the margin to 38-34 by halftime. The Buckeyes finished the half on a 14-7 run capped by the second 3-pointer from Thomas, who scored 16 of their 34 first-half points with his steady all-around game.

Thompson’s layup with 17:39 left gave Ohio State its first lead since 2-0, and the Buckeyes opened the second half with a 10-0 run while holding Arizona scoreless for more than 6½ minutes spanning halftime.

As the only school west of Wichita left in the regional, Arizona had a significant home-crowd advantage at the cavernous Staples Center, packing the lower bowl with thousands of fans. But Ohio State also had a healthy fan turnout led by Cleveland’s favorite son, The Price Is Right host Drew Carey.

EAST REGIONAL

Marquette 71, Miami 61

Vander Blue’s buzzer-beater came at the end of the first half. For a change, Marquette didn’t need one at the end of the game.

After sweating through a pair of edge-of-your-seat comebacks, Blue and the Golden Eagles figured out how to put one away early, earning Marquette’s first trip to the Elite Eight since 2003.

Blue, who spurred the rallies that beat Davidson by one and Butler by two, finished with 14 points. He wasn’t Marquette’s leading scorer – that was Jamil Wilson with 16 – but it was Blue’s offensive and defensive energy that pushed the Golden Eagles to a double-digit lead in the first half, a spread Miami never came close to making up.

The third-seeded Golden Eagles (26-8) will face either top-seeded Indiana or No. 4 seed Syracuse in the East Regional final tomorrow, aiming for a spot in the Final Foul for the first time since Dwyane Wade took them there a decade ago.

The game wasn’t hard to decipher. Marquette could shoot; Miami couldn’t. The Hurricanes (29-7) had sentiment on their side, returning to the arena where Coach Jim Larranaga led mid-major George Mason to the Final Four seven years ago, but they made only 35 percent of their field goals and missed 18 of 26 3-pointers.

Marquette, meanwhile, shot 54 percent, a stark turnaround from its 38 percent rate from the first two games in the tournament. Davante Gardner added 14 points, with 12 coming in the second half when the Golden Eagles were comfortably ahead.

Shane Larkin scored 14 points to lead the No. 2 seed Hurricanes, whose NCAA run to the round of 16 matched the best in school history.

Blue missed his first two shots – pining for a foul after throwing up a clumsy airball on a baseline drive – but he got on the board when he picked off a pass and converted the steal into a one-handed jam to give Marquette an 8-4 lead.

That got him going. A running one-hander made it 12-4. Blue and Junior Cadougan forced a steal, getting Larkin to commit his second foul in the process. The next time Blue missed, Trent Lockett was there to dunk the rebound and put the Golden Eagles up by nine.

Meanwhile, the Hurricanes couldn’t sink a shot, from inside or out. Raphael Akpejiori flung a hook that hit so high off the backboard that it looked better suited for a setup toss in a dunk contest. Miami started 2-for-12, including 0-for-6 from 3-point range, and Larkin’s 3-pointer more than 11 minutes into the game was the first Hurricanes field goal scored by anyone other than Kenny Kadji.

Even when the Hurricanes ran a play perfectly, the shot wouldn’t fall. Trey McKinney Jones had a nice screen set for him in the final minute of the first half, but his open 15-footer rattled in and out.

Jones’s miss set the stage for Blue to end the half with an exclamation point. He hit a step-back 15-footer just before the horn to give Marquette a 29-16 lead at the break. He drained the shot, strutted backward downcourt, cocked his right arm and gave Wilson a chest bump as the Golden Eagles headed to the locker room well in control.

Miami shot 21 percent (6-for-29) in the half, and just 9 percent (1-for-11) from beyond the arc.

Blue’s basket with 10:03 to play gave Marquette a 51-30 lead. The Hurricanes, who by then had started to press full court, then put together their best sequence of the night, a 7-0 run that cut the lead to 14 with 8½ minutes left.

But Wilson’s dunk and Gardner’s inside basket stretched the lead back to 18. Gardner became the scene-stealer in the closing minutes, thumping his chest to the Marquette fans after a dunk in the final four minutes.

The Hurricanes played without backup center Reggie Johnson, who had surgery Tuesday for a minor knee injury. Johnson was averaging seven rebounds, but he would have helped only if he could’ve put the ball in the basket.

Miami’s loss was similar to its early-season defeat to now-famous Florida Gulf Coast, when the Hurricanes shot 26.7 percent (8 of 30) in the first half and 29.1 percent (16 of 55) for the game.

Officials allowed the game to be physical. Only eight fouls were called in the first half.

Legacy Comments0
There are no comments yet. Be the first!
Post a Comment

You must be registered to comment on stories. Click here to register.