Rushed Reactions: #3 Ohio State 73, #6 Arizona 70Posted by AMurawa on March 28th, 2013
Andrew Murawa (@amurawa) is reporting from the West Region semifinals in Los Angeles, California, this weekend.
Three Key Takeaways.
- Madness. After 39 minutes, 40 seconds and change, these two teams were dead even subsequent to a wild exchange of runs. One team killed it for the first 15 minutes, the other controlled the next 20-plus. And then down the stretch it was two prizefighters standing in the middlle of the ring throwing haymakers. Arizona’s seniors Solomon Hill and Mark Lyons threw together a barrage of scoring. Ohio State responded with play-making from Aaron Craft and shotmaking from LaQuinton Ross. And both teams went at it defensively. There was a crazy late run for Arizona to tie things up, but for the second straight game with the clock running down in regulation, the Buckeyes got a huge three-point bucket, this one from the newly confident Ross in the waning seconds, to provide the difference.
- The Buckeyes Have Found Their Additional Scorers. Much of the year the talk was about “who can Ohio State find to be its second scorer?” DeShaun Thomas has regularly been the leading man for the Bucks, pacing the team in scoring all year long and again tonight. But down the stretch tonight, it was Ross who made play after play after play for them, and in a variety of ways. He scored 14 of the Buckeyes last 17 points and he did it both with the drive, the ability to get to the line and, shown most spectacularly on the final bucket, with deep three-point range. Once a highly regarded recruit, it has taken awhile, but Ross has blossomed in a hurry in March. Meanwhile, Thomas was largely silent late after scoring 20 points in the games’ first 31 minutes.
- Tale of Two Arizonas. For the first 15 minutes or so, the Wildcats looked like the best team on the court, with Lyons getting to the hole regularly and drawing a couple of fouls on Craft. The freshman bigs were contributing, Nick Johnson looked like the best player on the floor and the Arizona fans in attendance were confident. Then, over about an 11-minute stretch spanning the half, the Ohio State defense turned on the juice, the Cats got frustrated and they gave up a 22-6 run over an 11:24 period. To knock off a team as solid and experienced as the Buckeyes, you’ve really got to play well for all 40 minutes.
Star of the Game. LaQuinton Ross, Ohio State. For the second straight game, Ross came up large for the Buckeyes, scoring 17 for the game. Fourteen of those came after the break and all of those came in the last eight minutes. As recently as March 10 against Illinois, he was earning just single-digit minutes, but as the Buckeyes forge ahead into the Elite Eight, Ross has become a major factor, a 6’8” match-up nightmare who can shoot over smaller, quicker defenders or blow by bigger defenders.
Sights & Sounds. Lots of Red. The area surrounding the Staples Center in Los Angeles was awash in red Thursday afternoon, as Ohio State and Arizona fans came out in abundance to support their two teams. By the time the game tipped off before 5:00 PM local time, the bulk of the fans inside the arena were wearing red, even more than you’ll normally see for a Clippers game. And while the Wildcats may have had the louder fans through the majority of the game, Ohio State fans showed an ability to match Arizona’s noise when needed. All of which made for an excellent environment for a Sweet Sixteen opener.
Quotable. “We switched probably 400 hand-offs and ball screens in the game. We didn’t switch that last one. Players make big plays. Teams make big plays. The pressure of the moment, the Sweet Sixteen, going to the Elite Eight, two guys go to one. Whether he made that last shot or not, I think we’ll all live with it when it’s challenged and we do what we’re supposed to do. But part of the reason he had such a great look at the end there was two guys went with the ball, when in reality, we’ve switched every single hand-off and ball screen from the opening tip to that one right there.” – Sean Miller, on LaQuinton Ross’ final shot.
Wildcard. Matta v. Miller. In the two games Sean Miller has coached against Thad Matta, he has lost in excruciatingly heartbreaking fashion. In 2007, when he was still at Xavier, his team took #1 seed Ohio State down to the wire, before giving up a late nine-point lead and getting sent to overtime when Ron Lewis knocked down a three at the buzzer. Already loath to compete against a close friend, after these pair of losses, Miller is never going to want to see Matta standing down the sideline from him again.
What’s Next? Ohio State moves on to face the winner of Wichita State and La Salle in the Elite Eight on Saturday afternoon with a chance to get back to their second straight Final Four. Meanwhile, Arizona heads back to Tucson to lick their wounds. The collegiate careers of Lyons, Hill and Kevin Parrom are now over, but the future is still bright in the Arizona program.