It was a career night for sophomore forward LaQuinton Ross as Ohio State bounced back from Wednesday’s tough loss at Duke.
Ross netted a career-high 22 points vs. NKU
Ross had 22 points and eight rebounds as the fourth-ranked Buckeyes turned back Northern Kentucky 70-43 before 16,548 Saturday afternoon at Value City Arena.
Coming off the bench, Ross connected on 8 of 12 shots from the floor and 3 of 6 from three-point range for the Buckeyes (5-1). About the only bad thing Ross did was blow a dunk in the final minute when OSU held a 30-point lead. He left the game to a huge ovation anyway moments later.
“He had a great practice yesterday and I just felt like he was going to have a really good game today,” said OSU coach Thad Matta. “He was very efficient and the more he plays the more overall confidence he gains.”
Ross eclipsed his previous career high of 11 points against Missouri-Kansas City.
“It was great having more playing time tonight,” Ross said. “Our coaches told me to shoot more and get more comfortable with my footwork, and that’s what I did. “
Deshaun Thomas added 14 points and eight rebounds, while Sam Thompson had 10 points and Lenzelle Smith Jr. scored six. Thomas was glad to get some help in the scoring department.
“It’s going to help us a lot having guys like Shannon and Q come off the bench,” Thomas said. “Teams are going to double team me a lot and having them there to step up is what we need.”
Jalen Billups led Northern Kentucky (0-5) with 11 points and nine rebounds. The Norse, a member of the Atlantic Sun Conference, are making the transition from being a Division II powerhouse to playing their first year at the Division I level. NKU shot 27.1 percent (16 of 59) from the floor and committed 20 turnovers.
NKU coach Dave Bezold credited Ross for stepping forward.
“We figured someone would make shots, we didn’t know which one,” Bezold said. “To his credit, he stepped up. We couldn’t extend pressure to everyone; we gave up the jump shot. We didn’t take away his confidence by breaking his rhythm. Craft found him in the right stops and he knocked them down.”
NKU gave the Buckeyes some trouble for the game’s first 10 minutes before OSU was able to pull away for a 36-22 halftime lead. The Buckeyes quickly got the lead out to 20 points early in the second half and never looked back.
“I didn’t think we communicated as well to start the game as I would have liked, and we didn’t make enough shots,” Matta said. “We are going to have to put the ball in the basket more moving forward the rest of this season.”
But Matta was glad to see his team come back after Wednesday’s tough 73-68 loss at Duke.
“Number one, I wanted us to get up off the mat and have fight in us,” Matta said. “I challenged this team to collectively play defense because I knew we could take Northern Kentucky out of what they wanted to do. I also want to see us be more fluent in transition.”
NKU was within two at 13-11 after a rebound basket by Billups. But Ohio State went on a 21-5 tear to take control of the game.
Ross started it with a three. Evan Ravenel then made a pair of free throws. Thomas scored on a hook inside, Ross had a rebound basket, Thomas hit two free throws, Smith canned a three from the left wing, Thompson made a pair of free throws, Aaron Craft drove for a layup and Ross capped it with a three off a crosscourt pass from Smith. OSU led 34-16 with 3:28 left in the half.
Ross gave OSU its biggest lead of the half at 19, 36-17, with a pair of free throws with 2:01 left.
Ross had 13 points in the first half. OSU made just 30.3 percent of its shots (10 of 33) and was outrebounded 26-22 in the first half, but still led 36-22 at the intermission.
The Buckeyes scored six straight on field goals by Thomas and Thompson and a layup by Craft to go up 20 at 45-25 with 14:16 left.
Another Ross three made it 25 at 54-29 with 9:55 left. Thomas hit a pair of free throws to make it 63-36 with 6:30 left.
A three by freshman guard Amedeo Della Valle pushed it to 28 at 66-38 with 2:50 left. Shannon Scott found Thompson for a nifty alley oop dunk with 1:37 left before Ross had a layup off a Thompson assist on the fast break for OSU’s largest lead at 70-40 with 1:12 left.
* Scott added five points and six assists for the Buckeyes.
* Craft jammed his toe when he landed awkwardly on a drive late in the first half, but he returned and started the second half. He had another tough game from the field, though, as he was 2 of 9 for four points. He also had five rebounds and four assists. He was 3 of 15 in Wednesday’s loss at Duke.
Craft recorded four steals against the Norse, a season high. He has 181 for his career, good for No. 3 all-time in Ohio State history. David Lighty (2007-11) is No. 2 with 191. Jay Burson (1986-89) is Ohio State’s career leader with 204.
Smith, coming off a 4-for-12 game against Duke, was also 2 of 9.
* Ross reached double figures for the third time in six games.
* Thomas now has a career total of 1,023 at Ohio State, passing Jason Singleton (1,022 points) for 47th on the all-time scoring list.
* Ohio State and Northern Kentucky met for the first time Saturday. The Buckeyes are 13-0 all-time against members of the Atlantic Sun Conference.
* Against nonconference opponents, Matta’s OSU teams are a combined 113-21 in his nine years. His teams are also 187-21 against unranked opponents. Over the last three years, OSU is 57-1 against unranked opponents with the lone loss at Illinois last January (79-74).
* This was the first of an eight-game homestand for the Buckeyes. They will host Long Beach State next Saturday (noon, Big Ten Network).
* Click here for the box score of OSU-NKU.