LaQuinton Ross

Bryant v Ohio State

Ohio State junior forward LaQuinton Ross to enter 2014 NBA Draft


After leading Ohio State in both scoring and rebounding this past season, junior forward LaQuinton Ross has made the decision to forego his senior season and enter the 2014 NBA Draft. The news was announced by the school Friday afternoon.

“LaQuinton was an instrumental part of our success over the last three years,” Ohio State head coach Thad Matta said in the release. “His goal is to compete at the highest level possible. He will have that opportunity because of the work he has put in to prepare for this day. He will be missed at Ohio State and we wish him nothing but the very best.”

After a string of quality performances in the 2013 NCAA tournament Ross put together his most productive season in Columbus as a junior, averaging 15.2 points and 5.9 rebounds per game. Ross surpassed the 20-point mark in seven games this season, scoring a career-high 26 points in Ohio State’s Big Ten quarterfinal victory over Nebraska.

That win over Nebraska was also one of five games in which Ross posted a double-double this season. Ross becomes the second player to leave the Ohio State program with eligibility remaining, as guard Amedeo Della Valle made the decision to play for a professional team in his native Italy days after the Buckeyes’ season came to an end in the NCAA tournament.

Losing Ross, ranked the 63rd-best prospect by, means that Ohio State will have one less proven scorer in 2014-15. However his departure opens up more opportunities for incoming freshman wings Keita Bates-Diop and Jae’Sean Tate, with guard D’Angelo Russell and center David Bell joining them in Ohio State’s 2014 recruiting haul.

Big Ten Tournament: Flailing Buckeyes overcome double-digit deficit, shock Nebraska

Della valle

Ohio State looked beaten. With roughly thirteen minutes remaining the second half, the Buckeyes were losing by eighteen points and appeared as if they would rather be anywhere other than Indianapolis. The squad was teetering: too proud to lay down and allow Nebraska, one of the nation’s hottest teams, to finish the steamroll, but uncertain if it was worth fighting back. OSU slowly began to chip away, however, and the lead, decreasing minute by minute, evaporated until OSU took the lead with sixty seconds remaining. Ohio State’s rebirth was complete — the Buckeyes escaped the quarterfinals, defeating the Cornhuskers 71-67.

Making their move midway through the second half, the Ohio State win was a combination of traditionally stout Buckeye defense and a complete breakdown of Nebraska’s offense. Tim Miles’ team scored .99 points per possession in the first half, but that rating dropped to .92 in the final twenty minutes; rather than continue attacking their OSU defenders and getting to the basket, NU started settling for long-range attempts (of which they converted only 30 percent), a puzzling strategy since it’s been proven that Nebraska’s outside shooting isn’t robust (32.9 percent in Big Ten play). The moment which encapsulated NU’s offensive timidity came after Walter Pitchford rose for an ally-oop but missed the attempted reverse dunk — Nebraska converted only two shots from the field following the failed dunk.

LaQuinton Ross was the hero of the stat sheet, scoring 26 points on a variety of mid-range jumpers, but the Buckeye who deserves credit for sparking the comeback, and one who clearly enjoys playing Nebraska, is Amedeo Della Valle. The lanky wing, sporting a hairdo that rivals Bradley Cooper’s ‘American Hustle’ character, had previously scored a season-high 15 versus NU, and followed that effort with twelve points today. The sophomore barely played last season, but after a successful summer leading Italy to the U20 European Championship (earning an MVP nod for his efforts), it is evident the wing’s frenetic offense and fearlessness when in the open court could earn him more minutes.

Turnovers help Ohio State beat No. 22 Michigan State in regular season finale

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After winning three straight games Ohio State dropped road games at Penn State and Indiana, falling out of the national polls and finding themselves in danger of not receiving a first-round bye in next week’s Big Ten tournament as a result. The Buckeyes’ game against No. 22 Michigan State was also Senior Day for a highly successful class, but the most important thing for Thad Matta’s team to do was get back on track ahead of postseason play.

Ohio State (23-8, 10-8) was able to do that thanks in large part to their effort on the defensive end, holding Michigan State (23-8, 12-6) scoreless over the final 4:30 to win 69-67 in the regular season finale for both.

The Buckeyes are by no means an explosive offensive team; that much has been known all season long. And the absence of a consistent shot-maker has meant that Ohio State has needed to adjust, something they’ve struggled with at times in conference play. One way in which to make up for that deficiency is to attack the paint and Ohio State was able to do that Sunday, outscoring the Spartans 34-20 in that statistical category.

LaQuinton Ross, a gifted player who’s struggled to put it all together on a consistent basis, scored a team-high 22 points on 9-for-15 shooting. He rarely settled for tough shots against Michigan State, and it will be interesting to see if he can build on this performance as Ohio State enters postseason play. And if this group is to make any kind of noise in the NCAA tournament that has to be the case.

Ross’ individual performance is to be commended, but the defense down the stretch made the difference. In the final 4:30 Michigan State turned the ball over three times and missed four shots, with Ohio State keeping the Spartans from establishing any rhythm offensively. And for the game the Buckeyes would force 16 turnovers, converting those mistakes into 21 valuable points (plus-9 in points off turnovers). Ohio State may not have prolific scorers but they do have quality defenders, led by a senior in Craft (now the Big Ten’s all-time steals leader) who managed to corral a critical rebound with 29 seconds remaining.

It hasn’t always been smooth sailing for Ohio State in conference play, as evidenced by their ten league losses. But this is still a group that has experience and the ability to defend. Do that while finding quality looks on the other end, and Ohio State can be successful as the games get even bigger this month.

Shooting issues plague No. 22 Ohio State in loss at Penn State

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Since the start of Big Ten play one of the questions concerning No. 22 Ohio State was who would provide the perimeter shooting needed to factor into the Big Ten race. With the lack of a quality scoring threat in the post thanks to Deshaun Thomas’ early departure, those shot-makers became even more important for Thad Matta’s team.

Entering Thursday’s game at Penn State the Buckeyes ranked seventh in the Big Ten in three-point shooting, making just 32.8% of its attempts in conference play. Ohio State shot even worse from beyond the arc in Happy Valley, making five of their 17 attempts, and this combined with an off night from the foul line factored into the 65-63 defeat.

Penn State’s D.J. Newbill, who scored 25 points and hit the game-winning basket in the first meeting, scored 23 points and Tim Frazier added 16 for the Nittany Lions. If anything the area in which Penn State hurt Ohio State was in second-chance points, as they outscored the Buckeyes 15-5.

But even with the productivity of Penn State’s experienced guards and the second-chance points, the problem for Ohio State was their shooting. In addition to the three-point shooting the Buckeyes made 18 of their 27 free throws, with players other than LaQuinton Ross (11-for-13) combining to shoot 7-for-14. Ross (19 points) and Aaron Craft (ten points) were the lone players to score in double figures, but Craft also had to navigate second-half foul trouble while finishing the game with five turnovers.

Penn State was able to do a good job of switching defensive looks, mixing in some zone to go along with their man-to-man, and it did impact the Buckeyes’ effectiveness. A regular season finale against Michigan State represents an opportunity for a quality win before the Big Ten tournament, and a win there would benefit the Buckeyes from a seeding standpoint.

Lenzelle Smith Jr. (2-for-7 FG) and Sam Thompson (3-for-10 FG, no free throw attempts) were both quiet against Penn State, and even with his 19 points Ross shot 4-for-12 from the field. Ohio State clearly has the talent needed to win games, but in order to take that next step this group has to become more consistent offensively.

Nikola Cerina, LaQuinton Ross ejected after scuffle (VIDEO)

Northwestern v Ohio State
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Northwestern center Nikola Cerina and Ohio State forward LaQuinton Ross were both ejected from last night’s 76-60 win for the No. 24 Buckeyes.

Cerina and Amir Williams got tangled up and, after a lengthy review, the referees determined that he threw a punch. Ross didn’t, however, and was instead ejected for a pair of dead-ball technical fouls. Those were the result of Ross pushing Cerina and Drew Crawford.

Throw a punch is ruled fighting, which means that Cerina is suspended for a game even though he didn’t make contact. Ross was not ejected for fighting, and thus does not face a one-game suspension.

Here’s the full statement from the lead official on Wednesday night:

The give and take of LaQuinton Ross

Bryant v Ohio State

No. 3 Ohio State is a good basketball team.

You don’t make it to January undefeated — you don’t climb all the way up to No. 3 in the country — if you’re a good basketball team.

So we’re not arguing that here, even if no. 20 Iowa’s 84-74 win in Columbus was the second loss in a row for the Buckeyes.

What the Buckeyes are is a limited basketball team, one that has a ceiling thanks to the issues that they have on the offensive end of the floor.

Ohio State is built around their ability to defend, and, quite simply, there is no team in the country better than the Buckeyes when it comes to defense. They have a roster full of really good-to-great on-ball defenders and Thad Matta is as good as anyone in the business at teaching his guys help-side rotations. Put it all together, and there’s a reason that OSU entered Sunday as the nation’s No. 1 defense, according to Kenpom.

But the offensive end is a problem, one that is going to rear it’s ugly head over and over again this season.

We saw it on Tuesday night in the overtime loss to No. 5 Michigan State. The Spartans held the Buckeyes to just 38 points over the first 33 minutes. OSU was only able to force overtime because Michigan State turned the ball over nine times in the last seven minutes, the spark for a 20-3 run. In the overtime, with LaQuinton Ross strapped to the bench thanks to a 1-for-7 shooting performance, the Buckeyes looked lost offensively.

On Sunday, you saw the best and the worst of Ross. He was terrific on the offensive end of the floor, finishing with 22 points, seven boards and three assists. But he also committed three back-breaking turnovers in the final four minutes, allowing Iowa to regain the lead.

Here’s the catch: Matta really has no choice but to play Ross. If he’s not the most important player on the Ohio State roster, he’s not all that far behind Aaron Craft. They need his scoring simply because they have no one else on their roster that is as much of a threat on that end of the floor. Think about it like this: when Ross is on the bench, Ohio State’s best five is probably Craft, Shannon Scott, Lenzelle Smith, Sam Thompson and Amir Williams.

Who, out of that group, scares you offensively if you’re an opposing coach?

Ross is inconsistent and a liability, but he’s a risk that Matta has to play every night simply because he can put the ball in the basket.