NCAA Tourney Notebook: Thomas on Fence, Ross Plans to Return for Junior Year

By Kyle Rowland on March 31, 2013 at 2:15a
LaQuinton Ross said he'll return for his junior season

LOS ANGELES – There’s been an unspoken intrigue surrounding Ohio State’s entire season: would it be Deshaun Thomas’ final year in scarlet and gray? The answer is still unknown.

Following his 23-point performance in a 70-66 losing effort against Wichita State, Thomas evaded questions about his future, saying he has not come to a decision nor given it much thought.

“I’m just going to go home, enjoy my family, get back in the gym, and think about this,” he said. “This is a great group of guys I have around me and great coaching staff, so I’m going to enjoy my time off and not remember this loss and get back in the gym and get better.”

Thomas was an All-Big Ten selection this season and led the conference in scoring at nearly 20 points per game. He is widely expected to forego his final year of eligibility and enter the NBA Draft, even though he’s projected as a second-round pick. Thomas has a 1-year-old child, which could factor into his decision.

The Buckeyes’ other pro talent, LaQuinton Ross, ended any speculation about his future by revealing he hasn’t even considered leaving Ohio State.

“I’m coming back next year,” he said. “Right now, I really haven’t thought about next season. I really haven’t thought about that. I’ve only been focused on this year.”

Ross became an X-factor off the bench during Ohio State’s postseason. The Buckeyes looked for a second scorer all season to put beside Thomas, and it finally came.

Ross averaged 15 points and four rebounds during the NCAA Tournament, with a majority of those points coming in the second half, including 15 against Wichita State. The biggest shot he had was a game-winning three-pointer against Arizona in the Sweet 16. Ross made the shot with 2.1 seconds remaining.

“I tried to come off the bench and be a spark,” Ross said.

Thomas and Ross were both named to the All-Regional team.

“The growth of that young man has been tremendous,” head coach Thad Matta said of Ross. “He’s got a great future.”

DISAPPEARING ACT: Ohio State entered Saturday’s game converting on 50 percent of its three-point attempts during the NCAA Tournament. Against Wichita State, the Buckeyes made only five of 25 attempts from beyond the arc.

Trailing 35-22 at the half, Ohio State shot 2 of 10 from 3. It didn’t get much better in the second half.

“When you’re shooting as poorly as we were, you’re trying to find just anything in something to become contagious,” Matta said. “With this team, when we don’t shoot the ball well, we’re not real productive.”

The Buckeyes also only forced 12 turnovers. During their win streak, creating offense with good defense was their bread and butter. But Ohio State only had six points off turnovers and zero fast break points against the Shockers.

“They’re a very disciplined team on offense, had a lot of sets, and they do a pretty good job of taking care of the ball,” Ohio State point guard Aaron Craft said. “We got in transition some and didn’t really finish. We had some layups that we didn’t make, and probably took a couple early shots that we probably shouldn’t have taken. But got to give them a lot of credit.”

CASHING OUT: Money is probably far from Thad Matta’s mind. But Ohio State’s four-point loss to Wichita State in the West Regional final didn’t just hurt his heart, it also hit him in the wallet.

A win would have triggered a $20,000 bonus. If Ohio State had won the national championship, Matta would have collected $100,000. Even without the Final Four berth, Matta earned $100,000 in bonuses this season and a one-year contract extension worth at least $2.5 million.

Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith also missed out on $61,540 – a month’s salary – because of the loss.

Wichita State’s Gregg Marshall was the big winner this postseason. He’s due $380,00 for leading the Shockers through an improbable March run to the Final Four. He gets $36,000 for each game Wichita State plays in the NCAA Tournament. Marshall’s annual compensation is $1.15 million. If he leads the Shockers to a national title, he will have earned $616,000 in bonuses. 

Saturday wasn’t the first time this season Matta has missed out on a bonus. If Michigan had held on against Indiana during the regular-season finale, he would have been awarded $80,000 for winning the Big Ten championship.

RIVALRY RENEWED: The West Regional final may have been a matchup of unfamiliar teams, but the programs actually have a storied history.

During the 1960s, while Ohio State and Wichita State were at the height of their powers, the two teams played a four-game series. The Buckeyes were victorious in three of the games, but the Shockers were able to upset the No. 2 Ohio State in December 1962.

The games took place from the 1960-63. The Buckeyes won the 1960 national title and advanced to the championship game in ’61 and ’62, while Wichita State, then known as the University of Wichita, earned a Final Four berth in ’65 and played in the Elite Eight in ’64.

In four of the five meetings, Ohio State has been ranked in the top 10. The Buckeyes were the top-ranked team when they travel to Wichita in 1960. Jerry Lucas missed four shots all night on the way to 27 points and a 93-82 Ohio State victory.

The Buckeyes led by as many as 23 points until the Shockers, ironically, employed a full-court press. The deficit was cut to 10, but Ohio State held on.

“I wish that I had known that a full-court press would bother the NCAA champions so much and I would have started it sooner,” Wichita State head coach Ralph Miller said after the game.

The teams played in Columbus the next season, with Lucas again scoring 27 points. This time, though, he only missed one shot and added 15 rebounds. The top-ranked Buckeyes won, 85-62, at St. John Arena.

The trip back to Kansas in 1962 resulted in one of the Shockers biggest wins in schools history, as they beat No. 2-ranked Ohio State, 71-54. The game took place in front of a record crowd at WU Field House – 11,375.

Wichita State led by four at halftime and managed to stretch the lead out after the break behind 18-of-27 shooting. The Shockers also beat defending national champion Cincinnati the same season.

The Buckeyes got revenge in 1963 behind 28 points and 16 rebounds from Ohio State great Gary Bradds. The Buckeyes won, 78-60, though there was controversy with Wichita’s All-American, Dave Stallworth. He finished with 25 points and 12 rebounds but fouled out with nearly seven minutes left in the game.

“It seemed like I got five fouls called on me on five straight plays,” Stallworth told the Wichita Eagle Friday. “I didn’t understand it, but I accepted it.”


Comments Show All Comments

Tim's picture

Every year feels like we were so close but couldn't quite get over the top.  Then I typically feel like we're going to lose a lot of talent and be worse the next year, but we've still made it to four straight Sweet 16s.  Even if Thomas leaves, we still have a lot more coming back then we have in recent years, but it's so hard to go out like we did tonight...

Buckeye Chuck's picture

No fast break points against a team that actually shot pretty badly is incredible. I still think they were a little too conservative in that regard in the first half; they missed some chances to really get Sam Thompson mentally involved in the game.

The most "loud mouth, disrespect" poster on 11W.

TMargo's picture

DT should go and take the money now. Its completely understandable, has a son to provide for.  I think we will be just as good or better. Our top 6 guys in the rotation will have BIG game experience and McDonald will be a solid big man backup.  If just one of the freshman can step up that will be a solid 8 man rotation...that in different situations could grow to 9 or 10.  Just look how we developed our bench over the year.  The Thad Train will continue to roll gents. 

smithwessonBuckeye's picture

Second round draft pick contracts are not guaranteed. I would assume that that is one of the things that may hold him up from immediately leaving.

Bucks43201's picture

I think Tank went for 23, not 21.
Long day/night...prob. just a typo

"You win with people." - Woody Hayes

Bamabucknut's picture

The college experience happens only once. I hope DT stays, gets his degree and prepares for life after basketball.

Klingenator's picture

With DT, I think he should do what most people say; if he's a first rounder and gets the guaranteed money, go.  If not, he may just get lost in the D League.  It will be interesting to see how Kam fits into the picture next year.  These guys, Thad most of all, did a tremendous job this year, and I couldn't be much prouder of the way the team came together.  That being said, it is a really tough way to go out...  A lot of what ifs.

Doc's picture

It was a great season.  A month ago I would have never gotten this team to the Elite 8.  I really think Tank needs to come back, he isn't consistent enough to go. If he does God's speed and good luck, but I think he should stay in Cbus.

CJDPHoS Member

The Official DDS of 11W

SilverBulletNYC's picture

Great season. We definitely overachieved. Very proud of our dudes, especially Coach Matta- for him to get us to the Elite 8 with the lack of shooters we had...damn. 

The South will NOT rise again!

Yme's picture

Despite the oddveous....Great effort, congrats on the season.....Sometimes u win, sometimes ya loose.....GBOD

ih8rolltyde's picture

Most interesting spelling of obvious I've ever seen, well done.

****igan smells like old water that hot dogs were boiled in.  FACT

osubuckeye4life's picture

Interesting stuff about the old rivalry. I was not aware of that.
The future looks bright for this team. 

zbd's picture

Gene Smith makes $61,540 per month? That's about $61,540 too much.  He should pay OSU for his incompetent work. Sending a 6-6 team to a bowl game when it is under investigation is stupid. He made an undefeated team ineligible for any BCS and all bowl games. Thanks moron. 

BuckinBama's picture

^^^ You must work for the NCAA, because no one knows what was going to happen with that. Gene Smith did hire Urban, that was a true move of a moron huh.

Hovenaut's picture

While not the next day feeling we all were expecting, but good follow up on some of the extracurriculars 11W.

Nice to hear Ross' intentions already, understand DT will take some time to think about it all. Love to have him back, but get it if he decides to move on.

Still a great season, and Matta has the program on solid ground.

Mr. Slick's picture

I fully expect Thomas to go pro and completely understand if he does but I'm REALLY hoping he comes back bc I think this team can be scary good if he returns. 

biggy84's picture

Imagine what Ross could do if he got to play 30-35 minutes. I don't understand why he didn't get more playing time this year. He had 19 points in only 22 minutes last night. The future looks bright.

tussey's picture

The reason why Q didn't see more minutes earlier in the year was because he wasn't playing defense. In my years of watching Thad coach, I have noticed that if you want to see the court, you had better be able to play some D. That being said, he did step up his defensive effort throughout the progression of the season, which I believe is why we saw an increase in his minutes, it also helps when you are shooting lights out.

biggy84's picture

When you need scoring, you play the guys who can score. The team needed scoring desperately and Lenzelle and Ravenel sure weren't better options. The team with the most points wins. Its not like Zelle was the second coming of Rodman on defense.

Patriot4098's picture

Never really got why people rag'd on Gene Smith so much. As much as that particular scenario sucked, we came out of it better off then when we went in. And it didn't take but a year to get there... My .02.

"Evil shenanigans!"     - Mac

IBleedSandG's picture

I hope DT comes back. I'm sure he'd like to make another run w/ his boys. Next years team would have a ton of experienced players and like Thad said in a postgame interview, "We'd have more than one senior and that hasn't happened around here too often/"