LaQuinton Ross’ three-pointer pushes Ohio State past Arizona (VIDEO)

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One of the best players in his high school class Ohio State sophomore wing LaQuinton Ross is an immensely gifted basketball player, and many have been waiting for him to become a factor.

During the NCAA tournament he’s stepped up, and on Thursday night his three-pointer with 2.1 seconds remaining proved to be the difference in the Buckeyes’ 73-70 victory over 6-seed Arizona in Los Angeles.

With Deshaun Thomas proving to be a difficult matchup for Arizona the Buckeyes (29-7) needed someone to step up and provide some offense. Up stepped Ross, who finished the game 17 points on 5-of-8 shooting.

“From my perspective, just in terms of the game, the one thing that I really had my eye on was LaQuinton Ross,” said Arizona head coach Sean Miller. “I really believe if you look at Ohio State’s winning streak, when he enters the game, it changes things in a very positive way for their team.”

Thomas finished with 20 points but most of his damage was done in the first half, and Ohio State would trail by as many as 11 points before finally getting untracked. Two things happened in the latter stages of the first half and carried over following the intermission: other Buckeyes raised their level of play offensively and as a team Thad Matta’s team played far better defensively.

Sounder in their defensive rotations, Ohio State put together a 22-5 run that lasted for nearly 12 minutes. Solomon Hill was hot for the Wildcats (27-8), keeping his team within striking distance, but everyone else went cold and Arizona would trail by as many as ten before rallying down the stretch.

Hill finished with 16 points and Mark Lyons scored 23 to lead the way. However, outside of those two Arizona shot just 10-of-29 (34.5%) from the field, and that percentage won’t get the job done against a team like Ohio State.

Arizona’s rally set the stage for more Buckeye heroics on the heels of Aaron Craft’s game-winner against Iowa State on Sunday, and on this occasion it was Ross who landed the finishing blow. Much is made of teams getting hot at the right time and Ohio State fits that mold as they’ve now won 11 straight games.

But what about players? Ross played well during the Big Ten tournament and he’s continued to do so in the NCAA tournament. If the lanky wing can continue to do so, Ohio State has to like their chances of getting to Atlanta.

“He’s out there with some other really skilled and good players,” remarked Miller on Ross’ impact. “But his 17 points and the 22‑5 run after halftime really, in my mind, stand out in the difference of a great game, a really hard‑fought game.”

Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

Sindarius Thornwell misses practice on Thursday

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Sindarius Thornwell has been the best player in the NCAA tournament to date, yet he was not in the building on Thursday when the South Carolina Gamecocks practiced and he was nowhere to be found during South Carolina’s media availability.

A school spokeswoman told reporters that Thornwell was back at the hotel, that he was sick and resting.

Thornwell is averaging 25.7 points in four games in the NCAA tournament. He’s been sensational. If he’s not at his best this weekend, that’s a massive blow for South Carolina’s chances of getting to a national title game.

Arizona freshman Lauri Markkanen to declare for NBA Draft

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Arizona freshman Lauri Markkanen will announce today that he is declaring for the NBA Draft and signing with an agent, according to multiple reports.

The program is holding a press conference for Thursday at 1 p.m. ET.

Markkanen is a 7-footer from Finland that averaged 15.6 points this season while shooting 42 percent from beyond the arc. He’s projected as a top ten pick, and his size and versatility should make him a valuable piece given the way that the NBA is trending.

There is very little surprise with this decision. The expectation always was that Markkanen would be gone after one season.

The news was first reported by Scout.com.

Anthony Grant to replace Archie Miller at Dayton

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Dayton has hired Anthony Grant to replace Archie Miller as head coach, the program announced on Thursday.

“Anthony Grant is a proven winner with the highest integrity,” Athletic Director Neil Sullivan said. “He has successful experience in coaching, recruiting and playing basketball at an elite level. I welcome Anthony to our staff and look forward to partnering with him as we continue to aggressively pursue graduating student-athletes, winning conference championships and advancing in the NCAA tournament. He is absolutely the right coach.”

Grant is a Dayton alum. He spent 12 years as Billy Donovan’s assistant coach before finally landing a head coaching gig at VCU. After three seasons with the Rams, he took over at Alabama, where he was fired in 2015.

Grant has spent the last two years with Donovan as an assistant with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

“I am honored and humbled to be the head coach at the University of Dayton,” Grant said. “It’s a great responsibility to take over at an institution that is so well-respected. Anyone you talk to in college basketball would say our program is a successful one, but the potential is here for so much more.”

North Carolina ‘repeals’ HB2 to satisfy NCAA, anti-LGBTQ discrimination remains legal

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Late on Wednesday night, literally hours before an NCAA-imposed deadline that would have prevented the state of North Carolina from hosting any and all NCAA tournament events until at least 2022, the lawmakers in the state announced that they have reached an agreement to repeal House Bill 2, a discriminatory law that is commonly known as the bathroom bill.

The question now is whether or not this repeal will be enough to satisfy the NCAA, who was one of a handful of businesses that pulled out of the state due to HB2. According to the AP, more than $3.7 billion in revenue will be lost over the next decade as a result.

The issue with HB2 isn’t just that it makes it illegal for transgender people to use the bathroom of the gender they identify as. That gets the headlines, but the real damage done by this law is that it curbs legal protections for the LGBTQ community by banning local governments from passing laws to make discrimination illegal for at least three years.

From the New York Times:

Gay rights advocates were harshly critical of the bill. Cathryn Oakley, senior legislative counsel for the Human Rights Campaign, said that the compromise would leave lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people with no statewide anti-discrimination ordinance and no ability to seek such protections from local government for a number of years.

“What that means for the L.G.B.T. community is that we continue to be boxed out of nondiscrimination protections,” she said.

Chris Sgro, executive director of the gay rights group Equality North Carolina, said that the proposal “keeps North Carolina as the only state in the country obsessed with where trans people use the restroom through law.”

From the Charlotte Observer:

“The rumored HB2 ‘deal’ does nothing more than double-down on discrimination and would ensure North Carolina remains the worst state in the nation for LGBTQ people,” HRC President Chad Griffin said in a statement. “The consequences of this hateful law will only continue without full repeal of HB2. Sellouts cave under pressure. Leaders fight for what’s right.”

The NCAA had pulled first and second round games from Greensboro for this year’s tournament, instead allowing Greenville, South Carolina, to host the games. That’s significant because the NCAA, in 2002, pulled all events from that state because they flew the confederate flag on the statehouse grounds. The flag came down in 2015, and the NCAA rewarded the state with games; it’s hard not to see that as a statement to North Carolina.

In this year’s tournament, No. 2 seed Duke lost a game to No. 7 seed South Carolina in a game that was played in South Carolina instead of in North Carolina. The location wasn’t the only reason Duke lost that game, but you’ll have trouble convincing me that quasi-home court environment didn’t play a role.

Report: Texas’ Jones to test NBA possibility

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Both of Texas’ McDonald’s All-Americans from its 2016 class will test the NBA waters.

Andrew Jones will declare for the draft, but will not hire an agent, according to ESPN’s Jeff Goodman.

The 6-foot-4 guard joins Jarrett Allen, the Longhorns’ star center, in utilizing the rule change that became available to players last year in which they can declare, workout for teams, attend the NBA combine and still return to school.

Jones averaged 11.4 points, 3.9 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game as a freshman. He shot 42.5 percent from the field overall and 32.8 percent from 3-point range.

Allen seems the likelier candidate to remain in the draft as a potential lottery pick, but Jones came to Austin with similar one-and-done possibilities given his status as one of the class’ top recruits.

Texas, of course, is hoping both return, not just because they’re both big talents, but because incoming and highly-touted recruit Matt Coleman fills the major hole in last year’s lineup – point guard. If the three of them can share the floor together, Year 3 of the Shaka Smart era will be much more interesting.