LOS ANGELES – The Arizona Wildcats’ stiff defense left them early in the second half and LaQuinton Ross later hit a game-winning three-pointer to give Ohio State a 73-70 win over Arizona in the NCAA West Regional semifinal at the Staples Center.
Arizona held leads of up to 11 points in the first half but Ohio State went on a 12-5 run to finish the first half and a 10-0 run at the beginning of the second to change the course of the game.
The Wildcats held Ohio State to 40 percent shooting from the field in the first half but allowed the Buckeyes to hit three of their first four shots in the second half, while OSU also hit 4 of 4 free throws to take a 44-38 lead it never relinquished.
OSU shot 45.5 percent from the field in the second half and outrebounded the bigger Wildcats 17-13 after halftime while Ross went on a personal tear by scoring 14 points on 4-for-6 shooting in the second half.
The loss ended Arizona’s season at 27-8, while second-seeded Ohio State (29-7) will move on to face the winner of tonight’s La Salle-Wichita State game for the West Regional title and a berth in the Final Four.
Ohio State led 67-63 entering the final two minutes but Mark Lyons hit both ends of a one and one and drove inside for a layup to cut it to 70-67 entering the final minute.
With 43 seconds left, Ohio State coach Thad Matta called a timeout and Ohio State’s last play went to Ross, who shot his three from the left side of the wing. Arizona then had two seconds and the ball, but did not get a shot off when Solomon Hill turned it over as time expired.
Ohio State had gone ahead 67-61 lead by the time Aaron Craft made both ends of a one-and-one with 4:52 to go. The Wildcats later cut it to 67-63 entering the final two minutes when Nick Johnson made a layup
OSU took a lead of 50-42 with 12 minutes left in the game before Hill powered his way inside for nine Arizona points over the next four minutes, and UA cut it to 56-52 entering the final eight minutes.
OSU went on a 22-5 run over the end of the first half and beginning of the second, scoring the first 10 points, and taking a 44-38 lead before Brandon Ashley made the first UA bucket of half.
In the first half, the Wildcats led by up to 11 points in the first half before hanging on to a 38-34 halftime lead.
The Wildcats held OSU to 40 percent shooting from the field while making 50 percent themselves and that statistic was largely the difference with most other key stats similar.
Individually, OSU’s Deshaun Thomas led all scorers with 16 points while Lyons had 10 for Arizona.
UA took leads of up to 11 points in the first half, going ahead 31-10 when Nick Johnson hit a three-pointer on the break Kevin Parrom later made it 33-22 with a pair of free throws before OSU went on a 9-3 run to cut it to 36-31 entering the final three minutes.
The Buckeyes finished the half on a 12-5 run, though they missed a final opportunity to score when guard Aaron Craft drove inside and missed a layup attempt.
Arizona defended both Craft and Thomas with different players throughout the half, with top defender Johnson on both at differing times
Arizona took an 8-4 lead at the first media timeout, holding Ohio State to 2-for-8 shooting from the field. OSU cut it to 12-11 after a series of costly moves by UA guard Jordin Mayes, who missed a jumper, was beaten by Aaron Craft for a layup and fouled Sam Thompson.
UA coach Sean Miller called his full timeout with 13:11 after the Buckeyes cut it to one point, 12-11. Then UA outscored OSU 10-4, capped with a three-point play by Lyons with 11 minutes left.