Here is a story on Ohio State from the Mansfield News Journal, our Gannett partner. Check out more about the Buckeyes and their Sweet 16 matchup vs. Arizona at the News Journal’s Ohio State page.
By Rob McCurdy
COLUMBUS — He’s called Q by his teammates and coaches, and it’s apt because there always seems to be a question regarding LaQuinton Ross.
Every couple of weeks, someone would ask about the enigmatic, offensive-minded, sophomore forward.
How’s his mindset? Is he getting more comfortable at the defensive end? How’s he coming along and fitting in? Can he be a reliable second option on offense?
And at different times during the course of the season, the answers changed.
“Once his defensive level matches his offense, he’s going to be an unstoppable player,” junior guard Lenzelle Smith said at midseason.
Asked another time about the 6-foot-8 junior from Mississippi and senior center, Evan Ravenel said he was a special talent and one of the most talented offensive players he’s ever played with. But …
“It’s a matter of him bringing it every night and staying with that same intensity level,” Ravenel said. “I feel as though LaQuinton can do that every game if he brings that type of intensity every game.”
All-American junior forward Deshaun Thomas, whose game most resembles the skills Ross brings to the team, saw progress in his backup despite yo-yoing minutes in the Big Ten season.
“He’s being Q,” Thomas said. “He’s learning and knowing when to play in the system and when to take good shots. He’s grown into a basketball player that he needed to be.”
In a stretch of games that included a 16-point performance on 7-of-10 shooting at Michigan, Ohio State coach Thad Matta liked the progress he was seeing as well.
“At the start of the season I really thought he was making strides and he’d take a step back, but he’s bounced back,” Matta said.
But the step back was inevitable. After a solid performance against Indiana, he had no impact in 13 minutes against Northwestern and simply regressed like the rest of the Buckeyes at Wisconsin, going 1-for-7 from the field with three turnovers.
Take away a 10-point game in a blowout win against Minnesota where most of his 22 minutes came after the game was decided, and Ross was relegated to eighth-man minutes.
“With LaQuinton it’s a consistency factor,” Matta said in early March. “The biggest thing with LaQuinton is taking care of the basketball. The confidence we have in him, we want him to have for himself. He gets a little lax at times.”
Turnovers have been his Kryptonite. Ross is seventh on the team in minutes played this year, but second in turnovers with 59.
“You coach LaQuinton and you coach all the little things. We’ll be going though scouting and I’ll look and he’s staring at the ground and I’ll ask him, ‘Now are you really paying attention?’ I’ve seen that in him, and he’s starting to take things more serious,” Matta said at one point this season. “You honestly keep coaching him every day. First and foremost you want to see the carryover in practice, and then hopefully in games some things happen for him that he can reflect back and say, ‘OK, this is what they asked me to do and I did it and this was the result.’
“That usually starts to build the habit of consistency of what we’re trying to get.”
That consistency has shown itself in the postseason.
Ross had 11 points and hit three straight 3-pointers in the Big Ten Tournament opener against Nebraska. He followed with nine points against Michigan State and seven against Wisconsin as he shot 10 of 18 from the field and 6 of 9 from the 3-point arc over the three days.
In Dayton last weekend in the second and third rounds of the NCAA Tournament, Ross was even better.
He didn’t let an off-shooting night spoil his first action in the tourney, finishing with seven points and eight rebounds in 20 minutes during the beating of Iona.
Against Iowa State his 17 points on 6 of 10 shooting got lost in Aaron Craft’s game-winning 3-pointer with half a second left.
He’s starting to find joy in his role, averaging 7.7 points in 16.7 minutes while shooting 47 percent from the field, 38 percent from the arc and 73 percent from the foul line.
“I think coming off the bench, I have an advantage because I get to watch the pace of the game and I get to see what those guys are doing — switches on pick and rolls and all that,” Ross said after the Iowa State game Sunday.
“Coach always tells him to be ready. Q can help this team a lot when he’s ready,” Thomas said.
Q has proven he can be an answer for Buckeyes off the bench — no question.
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Related story from Javier Morales at TucsonCitizen.com: Ohio State’s Deshaun Thomas presents a unique challenge for Arizona