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Ohio State beats Arizona on late 3 in NCAA

Ohio State’s LaQuinton Ross, middle, reacts after taking a pass from Aaron Craft and hitting the winning 3-pointer.

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Ohio State’s LaQuinton Ross, middle, reacts after taking a pass from Aaron Craft and hitting the winning 3-pointer.

LOS ANGELES — LaQuinton Ross hit the tiebreaking 3-pointer with 2.1 seconds to play, and Ohio State advanced to the brink of its second straight Final Four appearance with a 73-70 victory over Arizona on Thursday night in a West Region semifinal.

Ross scored 14 of his 17 in the second half as the second-seeded Buckeyes (29-7) rallied from an early 11-point deficit and weathered the sixth-seeded Wildcats' late charge for their 11th consecutive victory.

Deshaun Thomas scored 20 for Ohio State, and point guard Aaron Craft added 13. Craft had the assist on the winning shot; he hit a similar 3-pointer Sunday to beat Iowa State.

Mark Lyons' acrobatic three-point play for the Wildcats (27-8) tied it with 21.8 seconds left.

Craft dribbled down the clock and gave it to Ross, who made his second 3-pointer after Arizona failed to execute a switch on a pick.

"It feels great, man," said Ross, a once-touted 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."

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.

The Buckeyes trailed for nearly the entire first half before pushing ahead and nursing a small lead throughout the final minutes.

Lyons scored 23 for the Wildcats, who rallied from a 10-point deficit in the second half. Solomon Hill added 16 points, but the rest of the Wildcats combined for just 31 points on 10-for-29 shooting.

Lyons greeted Ross in the postgame handshakes with a joking, "I can't stand you!"

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

The game was the second NCAA Tournament meeting between Ohio State coach Thad Matta and Arizona's Sean Miller, whose friendship goes back two decades to their time together at Miami of Ohio and Xavier.

"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 you leave with a lot of pride knowing you played your heart out."

Ohio State hasn't lost since Feb. 17, beating Indiana on the road and taking the Big Ten tournament.

Arizona led throughout a first half featuring 19 fouls.

Arizona had a significant home-crowd advantage, but Ohio State also had a healthy fan turnout led by Cleveland's favorite son, The Price Is Right host Drew Carey.

Ohio State beats Arizona on late 3 in NCAA 03/28/13 [Last modified: Thursday, March 28, 2013 11:36pm]
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