LaQuinton Ross takes a ton of heat.
Coaches, fans and analysts constantly rip on the guy for various failings including a tendency to lose composure, careless turnovers in critical moments, an assumed lack of impact on the backboards, and what comes off as a lackadaisical if not unintelligent approach to the game from time to time.
Lost is the reality that Ross, as a junior, is only now in the midst of his first full season as a starter. His freshman season was virtually wiped out by academic issues that kept him from the team until early December and as a sophomore, he only averaged 16 minutes per game.
Through 33 games this year, though you'd hardly know it if you just listened to everyone talk about him, Ross is leading the team in points (15.3), rebounds (6.1), 3FG% (38%) and if you throw out the big men, FG% (45%).
Even better, over the last four games, Ross is on fire averaging 21.5 points and 9.0 rebounds while shooting 51% from the floor.
In yesterday's comeback win over Nebraska, Ross again gave fans reason to shout after his third incident with an opposing player this season resulted in a technical foul, helping the Huskers extend their lead to 44-30 with just under 15 minutes to play.
Ross had scored 10 points up to that point but it looked as if he had come completely off the rails, putting his team on the verge of an embarrassing blowout. To his credit, and to the credit of Jeff Boals and Thad Matta, Ross quickly refocused on the task at hand and the kid poured in 16 points the rest of the way, teaming with Amedeo Della Valle to lead Ohio State to the biggest comeback victory in B1G tournament history.
When the dust settled, Ross went off for a career-high 26 points on 9/18 shooting and 7/9 from the stripe with 13 boards. Coupled with his tourney-opening 19 points and 15 rebounds against Purdue, Ross, though early, finds himself as the front-runner for tournament Most Outstanding Player honors. Not bad for a guy that only made 3rd team all-league.
Leading up to the tournament, Ross finished the regular season slate with 22 points on 9/15 shooting against Michigan State ensuring Aaron Craft and Lenzelle Smith Jr. received a proper send off from the home faithful which backed up a 19 point effort on 7/11 shooting in a loss at Indiana.
With yesterday's effort in hand, Ross has eclipsed the 20-point mark in eight games this year with six of those combing in league action. Interestingly, Ohio State is just 3-3 in the B1G play when Ross goes for 20+ though that's largely on the shoulders of his inconsistent teammates who typically put even more pressure on Q to shoulder the offensive load.
Bottom line, Ross is the midst of his most impressive stretch as a Buckeye, including last year's three games in the Dance when he averaged 17.7 points to help the Buckeyes reach the Elite Eight.
The question is whether or not he can keep it going but one thing's for certain, for all his warts, Ross seems to find another gear once the calendar flips to March.