Like a Ross: Q Steps Up in Postseason

By Michael Citro on March 25, 2013 at 12:00p

Ohio State is in the Sweet 16 for the fourth straight year, and much of the credit has to go to an apparently overrated rosy-cheeked white guy. Aaron Craft’s trey over Georges Niang with half a tick left on the University of Dayton Arena clock was the shot heard round the college basketball world, certainly.

Like a Ross.LaQuinton Ross has stepped up his game in tournament play.

The Crafty one made up for missing the front ends of two 1-and-1s down the stretch, when he avenged Niang’s intentional shoulder bump and broke hearts all over Ames, Iowa. It was a spectacular play in a weekend of such for Ohio State’s No. 4.

Craft fueled Ohio State’s first two NCAA tournament victories of this run, while Deshaun Thomas averaged 23 points over the two games.

Although Craft and Thomas once again led the way, the Buckeyes still wouldn’t be California bound without a significant contribution from sophomore wing LaQuinton Ross.

The 6-7 forward from Jackson, Mississippi, had what could be classified as an "OK" season. He averaged 7.5 points per game entering the NCAA tournament games in Dayton, with many of his points coming in garbage time of lopsided games against teams like Chicago State, Long Beach State, and Missouri-Kansas City.

But his game started to take a noticeable turn during the B1G season, especially his 16-point performance in an overtime loss at Michigan on Feb. 5. It seemed that Ross may have turned a corner with that performance.

Unfortunately, he couldn’t sustain it.

Despite scoring 11 points in a home loss to Indiana, Ross’s play trended downward for much of the rest of the regular season. He failed to score more than six points in six of the last seven conference games, including a scoreless performance at home against Northwestern on Valentine’s Day, and he tallied just three points in the drubbing in Madison on Feb. 17.

The two Northwestern games were particularly bad for Ross, who scored just five total points and grabbed two rebounds in the series, playing only 18 total minutes. The Wildcats’ Princeton offense gave him fits and he never got going. Thad Matta simply couldn’t afford to play him.

He was, in a word, inconsistent.

When the postseason came, Ross elevated his game. In the B1G tournament, Ross played no fewer than 15 minutes in any of the three games. He scored above his average in the first two tourney games, including 11 against Nebraska and nine in the semifinal against Sparty on 3/5 shooting. He posted seven points and four rebounds off the bench in the tournament final win against Wisconsin.

The emergence of Ross coincided with Matta’s recognition that his “small ball” lineup of Craft, Thomas, Ross, Shannon Scott and either Sam Thompson or Lenzelle Smith was giving fits to teams without dominating interior players.

On Friday evening, Ross played 20 minutes in the tournament-opening 95-70 beatdown of Iona. His shot wasn’t as sharp as it was in Chicago (2/9 overall, 1/4 from the arc), but he played effective defense and pulled down eight rebounds — second on the team only to Thompson’s career-high 10.

In yesterday’s dog fight against Iowa State, Ross was instrumental in Ohio State’s advancing to the Sweet 16. He played 21 minutes and hit 6/10 from the field, including 3/5 from downtown.  He scored 17 points and grabbed two boards. Before Craft’s game-winner, Ross was Ohio State’s second-leading scorer behind Thomas.

The 17 points were Q’s second-highest point total of the season, dating all the way back to the 22 he scored in 29 minutes against the North Kentucky Norse on Dec. 1, in a 70-43 win. His three triples tied a season high, established in that Northern Kentucky game and equaled in the B1G tourney win over Nebrasketball.

“I saw the team needed a spark off the bench, so I came in and did what I had to do,” Ross said. “They found me and I got a couple pick and pops and it felt great. My shot was falling.”“I saw the team needed a spark off the bench, so I came in and did what I had to do”

In a crucial second-half stretch, Ross scored 10 consecutive points for Ohio State, on a layup, two triples and a pair of free throws. His outburst started with 10:55 to play and helped the Buckeyes turn a 52-51 lead into a 65-53 advantage with 8:31 remaining. Although the Buckeyes melted down the stretch, leading to Craft’s heroics, if not for that spurt by Ross, the season might be over.

“I love the fact he was dialed in and he was making big-time plays,” Matta said of Ross. “He’s just something different for us.”

Matta rewarded Ross with playing time. Ross saw the floor for 21 minutes on Sunday, his highest total since he played 22 minutes in Ohio State's Feb. 20 home win over Minnesota. Since the B1G conference schedule began, Ross has only played more than 21 minutes twice. One was the Minnesota game and the other was the overtime loss at Michigan, when he was on the floor for 23 minutes.

Ross is enjoying his current role with the Buckeyes.

“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 in the postgame presser yesterday. “I was able to come in the game and set a few screens for Aaron and get open. I was able to knock down a couple of shots.”

Ross is now averaging 10.2 points in five postseason games. His defense and ball handling are still works in progress, but they’ve improved. He had four turnovers and three fouls against the Cornhuskers in the first tournament game, but just six turnovers and five fouls in the four games since.

If the Buckeyes are going to make a Final Four run, or better, Ross must continue to provide useful play off the bench, both in the scoring column and on the glass. Like Sam Thompson, another player elevating his game in the postseason, Ross's continued emergence is vital if the Buckeyes are going to make it out of the West Region.

So far, he’s delivering.


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BuckeyeLurker0509's picture

A+ title.
He played great yesterday and it was nice to see him calm down but stlill had those jitters with the traveling calls and turnover(s)? (I cant remember exactly due to my choice of beverage yesterday)
He came up big when Z was having foul trouble all game.

buckeyenut10's picture

I think Ross is not only starting to gain confidence, but he legitimately looks like he's having fun out there; which is fantastic news for his game. Before he looked either afraid to make a mistake or that he was taking every second on the floor like it might be his last for some reason. He looks looser, and it's really showed up in his shot, his drive, and even his ability to defend. Keep it going Q!

slippy's picture

I just mentioned this elsewhere but you can tell he's been taking pointers from Craft on playing on-ball defense.  He's a lot more active with his hands, and he now gets up in guys' faces when they're not in a position to drive.  Pretty sure he had 2 blocks in the span of 3 or 4 possessions yesterday as well.
And ever since the game @UM he's been a beast on the offensive boards.

OurHonorDefend09's picture

I think something that is really helping his effectiveness on the court is this emergence of his physicality. I believe it was the MSU or Wisco game in the B1G tourney where he was pump faking and going into people. While he isn't the heaviest guy, with that 6'8" frame he can still bump a bit. When he realized he didn't have to play timid, the rest of his game just escalated. This physicality is now making him a great rebounder and defender, which was Matta's original complaints with Q. Hopefully, he continues to grow and play well in the postseason because that could be the difference between going home Thursday and cutting down nets on April 8th.

Don't give up... Don't ever give up.

IBleedSandG's picture

Really excited about Q's improvement. Dude hits the offensive glass pretty consistently (kind like DT does from time to time), has a couple blocks or deflection due to his length and when he's on, he can drill it from 3. As soon as he really grasps the defensive end and works on his handle, the ceiling is pretty high for Ross.


740 BUCKEYE's picture

I think Craft has has influenced Shannon Scott's defensive play as well Slippy. Love it when Craft and Scott are on the floor at the same time. Tenacious D! 
When Ross came in, the talk was about how great a shooter he is, but what has impressed me is his ability to create in the lane. He is playing with more confidence and it shows. If DT comes back and Ross continues to develop his game combined with the dynamic duo of Scott and Craft along with Thompson and Z .... sorry getting carried away. Could be great.

D. Anthony's picture

He has to be dubbed the Qnami (Huge waves of offense coming out of nowhere) 

D. Anthony

Jack Fu's picture

Still way too many turnovers for me to ever feel comfortable with him out there (per stat sheet, he turns it over on 24% of his possessions used. That's even worse than Amir, and it would not surprise me if we found out that Amir's hands are literally made of stone), but it's nice that he's putting the ball in the basket a little. And for the love of all that is holy, someone please teach the kid how to pump fake without shuffling both feet. It's going to give me an aneurysm.

Hovenaut's picture

This team had such a great run to close out B1G play. Going into the tourney, I think the consensus was that there would be a needed step up in game all around in order to make a Final Four run.

It's been two different games yes, and the path ahead will remain tough, but we're seeing these guys stepping up. They've come together in my eyes, and are all in under Matta.

In a way, I see the rise in Q's play as a parallel to the team. Again (said the same in this morning's poll), Craft and DT lead the way. But another scoring threat had to emerge (and its been said by most for some time now), and Ross is developing into that right before our eyes.

In no way ready for any of this to be over yet, but I'm eager to see Q in the future.

D. Anthony's picture

not many 6'-7" guys with that kind of shot from the outside can also dribble-drive around a defender then spin in the lane and go up for 2 as he's been doing...all he needs is more time...he's the real deal.

D. Anthony

LexingtonBuckeye's picture

Q reminds me of DT from a couple years ago. He has the talent, but needs some time to polish his game to make better decisions. Decision making is the most important thing that younger players typically need to develop. I know that is a blanket statement, but that is what it boils down to. Craft exemplifies this and DT's game as well shows how raw talent + great decision making is the perfect combo. I think Ross is inching closer and closer to the tipping point. Let's hope he continues down the right path and is an impact player here on out.

Joe4's picture

Q's stroke is just so effortless and pure, and he's got a nice quick release, too. It's a pleasure to watch him shoot.

EvanstonBuckeye's picture

Q's best attribute is how he follows his own shot. He owns his misses like few other players and usually gets second chances at the bucket. Great skill to have.

Michael Citro's picture

This is a good observation. Very Deshaun-ish of Q.

Squirrel Master's picture

I was going to say that DT also does this but I believe Ross seems to be better at it. Thomas makes his shots more often than not so he doesn't do it as often, but Ross just seems to throw it up there to get it up on the rim and than use his insanely quick hops to get back up and either grab it or tip it back in. He definitely is a very diverse offensive player!

I saw a UFO told me to have a goodyear!

JO8K's picture


Squirrel Master's picture

too much crying for me to revel in it. At least he owned up to his role in the game and not say some BS about how they should have won. Guy played tough but he wrestled with the wrong Agamo!

I saw a UFO told me to have a goodyear!

JO8K's picture

I would normally be totally with you, but after pulling a punk move and dropping, what was clearly an intentional shoulder into Craft, I have a hard time mustering too much sympathy for the guy.

Squirrel Master's picture

I have no sympathy for the guy, just don't make a big deal about him crying all over it.
most players in his situation though do try to blame others and act like they were robbed, he owned up to blowing the play and making that mistake. He can go cry himself to sleep on his HUGE pillow but doesn't mean anything to me. I'm actually waiting for one of these loudmouths to finally own up to how bad ass Craft is and that he owned them, like they should!

I saw a UFO told me to have a goodyear!

Hovenaut's picture

That pulled from the Cryclones press conference?

I kid, I kid.

Squirrel Master's picture

Ross is playing on fire but I think this whole streak can be attributed to Ross, Thompson and Scott. Thompson had a 20/10 against Iona! That is RAW!
When Scott comes in, he is the second half of the dynamic PG duo with Craft! He has been a bit rough during the NCAAs at some points, like that taunting technical, but mostly he has helped this team find a scoring lineup that is aggressive and fast!
Ross just seems to be able to do things that not many players can do. He is so fluid and I know opposing coaches are like "that kid is coming off the bench and he can do that?". 
I know it is popular belief that Ross should be starting and Smith should be on the bench, but this is working very well right now and everyone is tuned into their roles. Ross and Scott will have their times on the floor, especially as that small ball lineup continues to dominate! 
As for next year, I see Craft, Thompson, Ross, Loving (because DT will be gone in this scenario) and Amir at center being the starting lineup. Just too dynamic of a lineup to not be it although if Loving is anything like what we all think he is, we could see a small ball lineup with Craft, Scott, Thompson, Ross and Loving. 
all of this is why I get frustrated when people bash Amir and Smith and any of these players. Its just too much awesomeness to hate on!

I saw a UFO told me to have a goodyear!

captain obvious's picture

The bashing of lenz and Amir bothers you yet you dont have lenzelle starting in either option and Amir in only one. The starting five next year will be the same besides Q for Tank.
Mcdonald and Loving will get post minutes off the bench and Scott will probably play more minutes than Lenz. Hopefully Thad becomes confident enough in Shaggy's  d that he gets some minutes.
Thompson really needs to step like he has been lately and become a legitimate scoring threat and we will be right back in the top ten again.

I'm a friend of thunder is it any wonder lightning strikes me

Squirrel Master's picture

This time you are not Captain Obvious! If you were you would know that just because I presume that Smith will be out of the starting lineup because other players will be better than him has nothing to do with how I see him as a player. I think very highly of Smith but that doesn't mean that I can't also see that a better player might take his starting spot.
big difference between calling the guy hopeless and asking why hasn't Matta kicked him off the team is a far cry different than thinking that he would be surpassed by more talented players. I think Smith is good, I just think Thompson and Ross are better.
I see what you are trying to do and guess what, I am not against calling out players and saying a player sucks (trust me, I have watched Bauserman play!), but to say the things that commentors on here have said about players that do actually contribute to the success of a team I think is inaccurate and wrong. Bauserman couldn't do anything to help the team win, he couldn't win any games at all. Smith has made clutch game winning shots, valuable late game rebounds and put backs. Smith has proven that he can help this team win as well as Amir who does some really good things for the team despite his individual lack of success.
and despite my issues with Bauserman, I never called for his head and said "he doesn't belong". I have always been an advocate for buckeye players and always say that if they are a buckeye that they deserve my respect.
Obvious indeed.

I saw a UFO told me to have a goodyear!

captain obvious's picture

I guess I dont remember anyone requesting him being thrown off the team. I do however recall many here at 11W as well as myself think that Ross and Scott should be getting his minutes.
Lenzelles had his moments there just  haven't been many lately.
So we agree.
You are just a little more sensitive than me.
I applaud that
& Michigan still sucks

I'm a friend of thunder is it any wonder lightning strikes me