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.”