Big-shot Buckeyes win another thriller on a three

Ohio St., Marquette move to Elite Eight

March 29, 2013 

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 2 seconds to play, and Ohio State advanced to the West Regional final with a 73-70 victory over Arizona on Thursday 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 three, Ohio State weathered the sixth-seeded Wildcats' late charge for its 11th consecutive win 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 three-pointer and set off a wild celebration in the Ohio State section of the Arizona-dominated crowd.

Craft hit an awfully similar three-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' 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."

Marquette rolls

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 in the NCAA Tournament, Blue and the Golden Eagles figured out how to put one away early, earning Marquette's first trip to the Elite Eight since 2003 with a 71-61 win over Miami.

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.

"It's amazing, man," Blue said in a postgame television interview. "Everybody said this team wasn't any good."

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

Marquette was knocked out in the round of 16 the past two years.

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 three-pointers.

"We just shot the ball so poorly," Larranaga said, also lamenting some injuries that hindered his team's preparation this week. "When you can't put the ball in the basket, you really have a hard time staying with a team like Marquette."

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.

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