LOS ANGELES - Another night, another hero for the Buckeyes as LaQuinton Ross nailed the game-winning three-point shot with two seconds left to lift the Buckeyes to a 73-70 win over the Arizona Wildcats and secure a spot in the Elite Eight and the West Regional Final on Saturday to take on No. 9 seeded Wichita State (CBS - Approx 7:05 pm ET).
Ohio State is only a game removed from last second heroics by Aaron Craft to get by Iowa State to even get to the Staples Center and on Thursday it was Craft giving the ball up to Ross who set his feet and hit a pure shot to give Ohio State a win in a game that they trailed by 11 points to Sean Miller's Wildcats.
"I like to credit my coaches for the play," Ross said after the game. "It was similar to the play we ran last game. We like to get the big that's pick-and-roll, it so happened they messed up on the switch right there, and I was able to knock down the shot."
"He's really become prideful in the little things in his game and it's really propelled him to be a better basket all player," Ohio State head coach Thad Matta said after the game. "I'm proud of him."
At the seven minute mark of the first half it did not appear that Ohio State was going to be in any position for late game heroics however as the team fell down to a 33-22 deficit as Arizona was having its way with Mark Lyons and his first half ten points.
"I told the guys at halftime that we were playing really, really selfish defensively," Matta said. "Going into the game I told our guys that the only shot we had to win this game is that we have to be who we are and the defense in the first half wasn't who we were in terms of our positioning, our effort."
But even with Ohio State's first half issues the team was able to cut it down from 11 to four at the end of the half and it appeared that the Buckeyes were starting to find there way.
"They were calling (the game) really close," Aaron Craft said. Craft picked up two first half fouls while the officials called 19 combined fouls in the first half. "It's tough to adjust to at that point, but you have to. I think they were pretty consistent both ways, so you just gotta move on."
Ohio State ran off a 22-5 run at the end of the half and into the second half to turn an 11-point hole into a six-point lead at 44-38.
"They came out in the second half with a bang," Arizona's Kevin Parrom said after the game. "We weren't expecting that, but maybe we should have during this time of the tournament."
Ohio State had four scorers in double figures and was led by Deshaun Thomas and his 20 points. Ross had 17 points, Craft had 13 and Sam Thompson had 11 points of his own. Ultimately the Buckeyes needed every point that they had to fight off an Arizona team that wouldn't stay down, even after falling to a 10-point deficit midway through the second half.
The Buckeyes opened up a six point lead with 1:33 to go in the game but to Arizona's credit, they weren't going anywhere and tied the game at 70-all when Lyons drove to the rack and was fouled by Ross and converted the three-point play.
It set up a situation for someone to be a hero, the Buckeyes got the ball back with 21 seconds left and knew they could hold for the last shot.
"It feels great man," Ross said. "This is what every players grows up looking at on TV and wants to hit that big shot, wants to win the game and hit the big shot in the NCAA Tournament or the NBA. It just feels great to be here right now."
This is the second time in the tournament where Matta has had the better of longtime friend and former assistant Sean Miller. The Buckeyes knocked out Miller's Xavier team en route to a National Championship game appearance on the Greg Oden/Mike Conley, Jr.-led team.
Arizona was led in scoring by Lyons and his game-high 23 points, Solomon Hill had 16 points.