Sophomore forward LaQuinton Ross became the second Ohio State player is as many games to knock down a last-second three, burying a long trey with 2.1 seconds remaining to give the Buckeyes a 73-70 victory Thursday night over Arizona at the Staples Center in Los Angeles and send OSU to the NCAA Tournament’s Elite Eight.
Junior point guard Aaron Craft bagged a three-pointer with 0:00.5 showing on the clock to propel the Buckeyes to a 78-75 win over Iowa State to get his team to the Sweet 16, and it was Craft who delivered a pass to Ross, who swished an NBA-length three over the outstretched arm of Arizona defender Grant Jerrett to keep Ohio State’s hopes alive of a second straight Final Four.
The second-seeded Buckeyes were led by junior swingman Deshaun Thomas, who kept his team afloat during a ragged first half by tallying 16 of his 20 points. Ross finished with 17 points on 5-of-8 shooting from the floor, including 2 for 2 from long range, and a 5-for-5 performance at the foul line.
Craft added 13 points to go along with five rebounds and five assists while sophomore forward Sam Thompson scored 11 points and tied teammate Lenzelle Smith Jr. with a game-high eight rebounds. Smith also had six points.
Arizona, the No. 6 seed in the West region, was led by senior guard Mark Lyons, who hit for a game-high 23 points, and senior forward Solomon Hill, who had 17, including nine in a row during a stretch in the second half that kept his team in the ball game.
Most of the first half belonged to Arizona, which started hit with three-pointers from five different players. But Ohio State refused to give in.
After Thomas scored the game’s first basket 13 seconds in, Lyons and senior forward Kevin Parrom hit back-to-back threes followed by a two-pointer from Hill to give the Wildcats an 8-2 advantage at the 16:23 mark.
The Buckeyes eventually whittled that early deficit to a single point twice, but a pair of free throws from Thomas made it 14-13 with 12:30 to play, Arizona went on a 19-9 run over the next six minutes to take its largest lead of the first half at 33-22 with 6:24 left until the break.
But back came the Buckeyes. They outscored the Wildcats by a 12-5 margin down the stretch, and a three from Thomas at the 1:10 mark pulled OSU back within four at 38-34 as the teams went to the locker rooms.
The way Arizona shot in the first half, Ohio State was lucky to be down only four. The Wildcats were 12 for 24 overall (50.0 percent) and made 5 of 8 (62.5 percent) from long range. They also added a 9-for-10 performance (90.0 percent) at the free-throw line.
Meanwhile, the Buckeyes were 12 of 30 (40.0 percent) but 4 for 8 (50.0) from three-point territory. Most of that damage was done by Thomas, who tallied 16 in the first half on 6-of-11 shooting including 2 for 4 beyond the arc.
Things began to go Ohio State’s way early in the second half as the Buckeyes scored the first 10 points of the period and 16 of the first 20 to take a 50-42 lead with 11:49 remaining.
A Thomas three at the 11:02 mark gave OSU its biggest lead of the game at 53-43, but Arizona refused to go away.
The Buckeyes still held a six-point advantage at 70-65 with 1:18 remaining, but Lyons drove to the hoop for a layup to make it 70-67 at the 1:07 mark, and then after Craft missed a layup of his own at the other end, Lyons converted an old-fashioned three-point play to the game at 70 with 21.8 seconds to play.
In almost a carbon copy of the final seconds against Iowa State, Craft dribbled the ball near midcourt until the final few seconds, but this time as he drove toward the right side of the lane, he flipped the ball to his left where Ross was waiting.
Arizona’s shooting touch went cold in the second half as the Wildcats made only 11 of 28 (39.3 percent) and just 1 of 10 (10.0 percent) from long range. For the game, Arizona finished 23 for 52 overall (44.2 percent) and 6 for 18 (33.3 percent) from three-point territory.
Ohio State made 10 of 22 shots (45.5 percent) in the second half, including 3 of 5 (60.0 percent) beyond the arc. Overall, the Buckeyes were 22 for 52 (42.3 percent) and 7 for 13 (53.8 percent) from deep.
Both teams also had a good night at the free-throw line. OSU connected on 22 of 26 attempts (84.6 percent) and the Wildcats were 18 for 20 (90.0 percent).