Ohio State Buckeyes' Ross watches his game-winning three-point shot along with Arizona Wildcats' Lyons in the closing seconds of their West Regional NCAA men's basketball game in Los Angeles

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.

Gonzaga’s NCAA tournament chances take a major blow in loss to No. 16 SMU

SMU guard Nic Moore (11) shoots over Gonzaga forward Kyle Wiltjer (33) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Jim Cowsert)
(AP Photo/Jim Cowsert)
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Nic Moore scored 18 of his 25 points in the second half and added 11 assists as No. 16 SMU knocked off Gonzaga in Moody Coliseum on Saturday night, 69-60.

The Zags got 20 points and 16 boards from Domantas Sabonis, but Kyle Wiltjer scored just four points and shot 2-for-17 from the floor.

It wasn’t pretty.

And it may have been the end of Gonzaga’s NCAA tournament hopes.

Entering Saturday, the Zags had an RPI in the mid-60s, enough to keep them in the bubble conversation but not enough to make them anything more than a team that will be projected to end up on the cut-line.

The issue is a complete lack of quality wins on their résumé. Gonzaga beat UConn in the Bahamas. That’s a borderline top 50 win. They beat Washington, another borderline top 50 win. Beyond that? They swept Pepperdine, beat Tennessee and own a win over Montana. None of those are top 100 wins, and that’s why the SMU game was such a big deal. The Mustangs are a top 25 team. This was a road game. This win was the kind of thing that the Zags could pin at the top of their profile.

But Wiltjer didn’t show up, the Zags had no answer for Moore and they’ll head back to Spokane needing, in all likelihood, to win the WCC’s automatic bid if they want to dance.

POSTERIZED: Cal’s Jaylen Brown has his dunk contest entry

California's Jaylen Brown lays up a shot against Oregon State in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Berkeley, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
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Cal picked up a big win over Oregon State in Haas Pavilion on Saturday night, and the exclamation point was this emphatic dunk from Jaylen Brown: