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Aaron Craft is the hero, LaQuinton Ross comes up big for Ohio State Sunday

Mar 24, 2013, 2:54 PM EDT

LaQuinton Ross AP

Aaron Craft missed a jump shot with 29 seconds remaining and the game tied at 75-75 Sunday in Dayton against Iowa State. The ball then slipped out of bounds off of the Cyclones, giving Ohio State one more shot. And all Craft needed was another chance.

As time winded down, Craft pulled up from the right wing and nailed a three-pointer with 0.5 seconds left, giving Ohio State the 78-75 win and a spot in the Sweet 16. Craft finished with 18 points, including that big shot to win it, and added six assists.

The ability to hit that shot is a full 180-degree turn from the way he had been playing down the stretch, going 2-of-5 from the line including missing the front end of two one-and-ones, and turning the ball over twice in the final 5:35 of play. Despite that, he still stepped up and hit the game-winner, however low-percentage or unlikely a shot it was.

(Click here to see video of Craft’s game-winning shot)

But for as clutch as Craft’s shot in the final seconds was or how important Deshaun Thomas’ 22 points were, don’t forget about the job sophomore LaQuinton Ross did coming off the bench Sunday.

Ross played just 35 minutes during his entire freshman season with the Buckeyes. But he played 21 Sunday and looked like the big-time weapon that the Buckeyes had recruited him to be, all coming in the season’s biggest moment so far.

Ross scored 10 points in a crucial three-minute span of the second half Sunday, finishing with 17 points on 6-of-10 shooting, including 3-of-5 from three-point range.

For Ross, this was his fifth double-digit scoring game since the conference season started, but it came in a huge spot for the Buckeyes. Coach Thad Matta was able to stretch the zone that Iowa State played for parts of the second half with Ross’ help, while still allowing for some versatility defensively. Even with Ross’ outbreak, it took some work for Ohio State to escape in the final minutes.

With 6:04 to play, the Cyclones trailed by 13 points. It took just over two minutes for that lead to be completely erased, tied at 69-69 after a Korie Lucious layup and the foul. In that stretch Craft, a 79 percent free throw shooter on the season, missed the front end of two straight one-and-ones.

But did he ever redeem himself? Of course.

Ohio State now moves on to play Arizona, a team that has breezed through its first two games in this NCAA tournament by beating Belmont and Harvard. The coaching matchup will be what likely grabs most of the headlines between Arizona’s Sean Miller and Ohio State’s Thad Matta. Miller worked on Matta’s staff when Matta was the head coach at Xavier, and Miller took over that role when Matta jumped ship for Ohio State.

Oh, and that game is for a trip to the Elite Eight.

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Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

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