Ohio State's Game-winning shot: Wide-open Ross shoots down UA's hopes

2013-03-29T00:00:00Z 2014-07-02T12:09:22Z Ohio State's Game-winning shot: Wide-open Ross shoots down UA's hopesPatrick Finley Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
March 29, 2013 12:00 am  • 

LOS ANGELES - This time, Aaron Craft didn't wave off an All-American to take the last shot himself.

This time, rather than burying a game-winning three-pointer, as he did in the final second Sunday against Iowa State, the Ohio State junior passed the ball.

He had no choice - two Arizona Wildcats were guarding him, and not by design.

LaQuinton Ross, wide open, caught the pass and made a three-pointer with 2 seconds left to give Ohio State a 73-70 Sweet 16 win over Arizona on Thursday night.

And "He Switched the Screen" replaced "He Touched the Ball" as the Wildcats' mumbled lament this season.

"Whether he made the shot or not, I think we all live with it when it's challenged and we do what we're supposed to do," UA coach Sean Miller said. "But part of the reason he had such a great look at the end was, there was two guys that went with the ball.

"When in reality, we've switched every single handoff and ball screen from the opening tip to that one right there."

At issue was the way the UA defended a screen - or was it not one? - set by Ross at the top of the key, beyond the three-point line, as Craft dribbled to his right with about 6 seconds left.

Ross ran from the right side of the key toward Craft, stopping briefly and then continuing to the left corner.

As Craft took two steps toward the lane, Nick Johnson followed him, staying above the screener.

Forward Grant Jerrett, who was guarding Ross, sunk toward Craft.

"They missed up on the switch right there," Ross said.

The sophomore forward was wide open from three, and Craft whipped a pass his way.

"It was supposed to be a switch," Johnson said. "I felt he really didn't set the screen. As of last week, I really didn't want to switch."

Last week, of course, Craft made a three-pointer in the final second to beat Iowa State after sending star teammate DeShaun Thomas away from him. Even Ross - who torched the UA for 14 second-half points in only 11 minutes - figured his point guard would take the last shot again.

"If I was the coach, I woulda bet my money," he said.

Jerrett called the switch a "miscommunication" and said he'd "take the blame for it."

"You just try to do what coach tells you to do," he said. "If you mess up you mess up. You just do your best."

Craft wanted to take on Jerrett, assuming Johnson had switched over to Ross, but never got the chance.

"I thought I was going to take advantage, hopefully, of the mismatch," Craft said. "For whatever reason they didn't communicate very well. They both kinda came with me. Compliments to Q - he did the hard part."

He'd done it before.

"A lot of times there's a defining moment for a young kid," OSU coach Thad Matta said. "And he's had not only his today, but he's had some big baskets."

Ross scored 10 straight second-half points in Sunday's win against the Cyclones. Thursday, he made 4 of 6 second-half shots, including a three-pointer from the left elbow extended with 2 seconds left. He finished with 17 points.

"If the ball got in my hand," he said, "knock down the shot."

Ross' mind was elsewhere half a minute earlier, when he fouled UA guard Mark Lyons on a three-point play with 21 seconds to play. Lyons made his free throw to tie the game at 70, and Ross' teammates swore they saw tears in his eyes.

"After that, my teammates grabbed me, calmed me down and I was able to go knock the shot down," he said. "Every play's a new play, man."

Especially when you're wide open.

"We knew he was a scorer," UA forward Solomon Hill said. "It's something different for the guys to learn.

"It's a chance for Grant and Brandon Ashley to really recognize situations, to prepare for situations like that, when they guard a guy that's more a wing than a big.

"He took advantage of that. He and Deshaun Thomas (who led OSU with 20 points) took advantage.

"That's something that you can learn from."

UA forward Kevin Parrom said NCAA tournament winners often find help in unusual places.

"He got hot," Parrom said. "If you're hot, why not keep shooting? If you're driving, why not keep driving? That's how it works in March. You need a meaningful effort from all your players."

Johnson called Ross the X-factor.

"In their big wins of the year, he comes off the bench and he scores well for them," he said. "He's 6-8 … a matchup nightmare."

Especially when both defenders guard the other guy.

"He stepped up," Craft said, "and knocked it down."

Contact reporter Patrick Finley at pfinley@azstarnet.com or 573-4145. On Twitter @PatrickFinley

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