Ohio State Basketball: Can LaQuinton Ross Become the 2nd Scorer Buckeyes Need?

Scott PolacekFeatured ColumnistDecember 2, 2012

Nov 17, 2012; Uncasville, CT, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes forward LaQuinton Ross (10) drives to the hoop against Rhode Island Rams guard Mike Powell (left) during the first half at Mohegan Sun Arena.  Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-US PRESSWIRE

An interesting and somewhat unexpected thing happened Saturday during what was supposed to be Ohio State’s get-over-the-Duke-loss game.

LaQuinton Ross dominated.

Feel free to point out the fact that the game was against 0-5 Northern Kentucky if you are a glass half-empty type of guy. But considering where Ross was exactly one year ago, it’s hard not to be encouraged by this development.

Ross was the best player in the Buckeyes’ 27-point victory and finished with 22 points, eight rebounds, one steal and one block in a season-high 29 minutes off the bench. He also shot 8-of-12 from the field and 3-of-6 from behind the three-point line.

While the overall numbers are impressive, the more important development is what this means going forward.

Perhaps the most pressing issue concerning Ohio State’s basketball team heading into the season was who would emerge as the second option on offense behind Deshaun Thomas, especially with the departures of Jared Sullinger and William Buford.

Aaron Craft was the easy projection, but he has never been an offensive force during his collegiate career and is probably at his best setting up his teammates and picking his spots when it comes to scoring.

That is why it is so easy to get a little too excited about the performance that Ross had on Saturday. He is the best three-point shooter on the team, stands at 6’8” and is silky smooth when penetrating the paint.

Really, he has all the physical tools necessary to be an absolute force with the ball in his hands. At this point it’s just a matter of him putting it all together and Thad Matta giving him enough chances to improve.

Ross was a highly touted recruit last season who was an integral part of Matta’s top-10 ranked 2011 recruiting class. However, an academically based suspension before the season started left him in the doghouse his entire freshman year.

With that in the past, many Buckeye fans and followers expected Ross to seize the starting small forward spot heading into the 2012-13 season. But Thad Matta, as he often does, elected to go with the better defender and has started Sam Thompson in every game.

This is not to suggest Matta was wrong in that decision. Thompson has given Ohio State great energy on both sides of the floor and has also been a better rebounder than expected.

Plus he can jump out of the gym, which is always fun to watch.

Rather, the issue is whether can Ross coexist with Thompson on the floor at the same time and develop into the second scoring option that Matta desperately needs to emerge behind Thomas.

Ross looked good in the first half against Duke, but he barely got to see the floor in the second half. Eventually, Matta is going to have to trust Ross down the stretch in those types of closely contested games if he is ever going to live up to his potential.

Ultimately, I may be overreacting to an early December game against a poor opponent, but I think Ross can become the second scorer the Buckeyes need.

He proved that he has the ability on Saturday, now he just needs the opportunity.