LOS ANGELES – LaQuinton Ross hit the tiebreaking 3-pointer with 2 seconds to play, and Ohio State advanced to the brink of its second straight Final Four appearance with a 73-70 victory over Arizona Thursday night in the West Regional semifinals.
Ross, the Buckeyes’ 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 and weathered the sixth-seeded Wildcats’ late charge for their 11th consecutive victory since mid-February.
Deshaun Thomas scored 20 points for Ohio State, and Aaron Craft added 13 before ceding the Buckeyes’ final shot to Ross. Craft hit an awfully similar 3-pointer against Iowa State last Sunday to send the Buckeyes forward.
Mark Lyons’ acrobatic three-point play for the Wildcats (27-8) had tied it with 21.8 seconds left.
Craft dribbled down the clock and gave it to Ross, who coolly drilled his second 3-pointer and set off a wild celebration in the Ohio State section of the Arizona-dominated crowd.
On Saturday, Ohio State will face the winner of the late game between underdogs Wichita State and La Salle. As the only top-eight seed left in the West, the Buckeyes will be Atlanta-bound with one more win.
Sam Thompson added 11 points for the Buckeyes, who trailed for nearly the entire first half before pushing ahead and nursing a small lead throughout the final minutes.
Lyons scored 23 points including his gutsy three-point play for the Wildcats, who rallied from a 10-point deficit in the second half before falling just short of their second NCAA regional final in four years. Solomon Hill added 16 points in his native Los Angeles, but the rest of Arizona combined for just 31 points on 10-for-29 shooting.
After Arizona jumped out to that early 11-point lead, Ohio State gathered its game and mounted a 33-13 surge spanning halftime, taking a 53-43 lead with 11 minutes left. The Wildcats finally answered, but Ross kept the Buckeyes in front with nine consecutive points down the stretch.
Craft became a tournament hero last Sunday against Iowa State, hitting a last-second 3-pointer and drawing a questionable charge moments earlier in the Buckeyes’ 78-75 win. Ross had his turn in the spotlight at Staples Center, and he didn’t flinch.
Marquette 71, Miami, Fla., 61: 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.
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.
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 3-pointers.
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.
Shane Larkin scored 14 points to lead the No. 2 seed Hurricanes, whose NCAA run to the round of 16 matched the best in school history.
Blue missed his first two shots – pining for a foul after throwing up a clumsy airball on a baseline drive – but he got on the board when he picked off a pass and converted the steal into a one-handed jam to give Marquette an 8-4 lead.
That got him going. A running one-hander made it 12-4. Blue and Junior Cadougan forced a steal, getting Larkin to commit his second foul in the process. The next time Blue missed, Trent Lockett was there to dunk the rebound and put the Golden Eagles up by nine.
Meanwhile, the Hurricanes couldn’t sink a shot, from inside or out. Raphael Akpejiori flung a hook that hit so high off the backboard that it looked better suited for a setup toss in a dunk contest. Miami started 2 for 12, including 0 for 6 from 3-point range, and Larkin’s 3-pointer more than 11 minutes into the game was the first Hurricanes field goal scored by anyone other than Kenny Kadji.
Even when the Hurricanes ran a play perfectly, the shot wouldn’t fall. Trey McKinney Jones had a nice screen set for him in the final minute of the first half, but his open 15-footer rattled in and out.
Jones’ miss set the stage for Blue to end the half with an exclamation point. He hit a step-back 15-footer just before the horn to give Marquette a 29-16 lead at the break. He drained the shot, strutted backward downcourt, cocked his right arm and gave Wilson a chest bump as the Golden Eagles headed to the locker room well in control.
BC-BKC--NCAA-Gottlieb Comment, 1st Ld-Writethru,140
CBS’ Gottlieb apologies for comment: CBS analyst Doug Gottlieb got coverage of the NCAA tournament’s Sweet 16 off to an awkward start, saying he was there to bring the “white man’s perspective” to the network’s pregame show.
Speaking on a panel with four African-American men, Gottlieb made his comment Thursday during a pre-game segment before Marquette faced Miami, sparking criticism on Twitter that it was inappropriate.
“I don’t know why you guys ask me, I’m just here to bring diversity to this set, give kind of the white man’s perspective,” he said during the show.