LOS ANGELES — LaQuinton Ross was changing in Ohio State’s locker room before Thursday’s Sweet 16 matchup with Arizona when a Staples Center employee informed the sophomore forward whose locker he was using.
Much to his delight, it was Kobe Bryant’s.
“To find out I had that locker, it felt great,” Ross said. “That’s one of my favorite players growing up and somebody I model my game after.”
A few hours later, Ross sank a shot reminiscent of so many his locker-mate has hit in this building, a thunderbolt that silenced a mostly pro-Arizona crowd and ensured Ohio State an Elite Eight matchup with either La Salle or Wichita State.
With the score tied after a Mark Lyons three-point play capped a late Arizona comeback from a 10-point deficit, Aaron Craft used a high ball screen from Ross to try to create a mismatch but drew a double team instead. As a result, Craft whipped a pass to Ross spotted up to the left of the top of the key and then shouted “knockdown” as his teammate buried the 3-pointer over late-recovering Grant Jerrett with two seconds left to secure a 73-70 victory.