Ross Rallying At Right Time For Buckeyes

It may have come after a slow start to the season, but Ohio State forward LaQuinton Ross is finally playing like the player that many thought he could be. Ross' recent hot streak -- which includes six straight games of at least 19 points -- could bode well for the Buckeyes as they prepare to enter the NCAA Tournament.

Asked recently what Ohio State's mood was heading into the NCAA Tournament, LaQuinton Ross responded that the Buckeyes were excited because it meant a few more days that "you get to miss school."

But while Ross' level of maturity is still up for debate, the junior forward is very self-aware when it comes to the reason why he was recruited to Ohio State in the first place.

"I was always known as a scorer," Ross said. "That's the thing that I was brought here for."

And in the weeks leading into the NCAA Tournament, the Jackson, Miss. native has been doing just that.

Dating back to the Buckeyes' Feb. 27 loss to Penn State, Ross has scored at least 19 points in each of Ohio State's past six games. Ross averaged 21.3 points and 11.3 rebounds in the Buckeyes' three Big Ten tournament games last weekend, en route to being named to the all-tournament team.

Asked what it is that's been working for him as of late, Ross kept his answer simple.

"Everything," Ross responded. "I've just been able to find ways to get the ball in the hole."

While Ross wasn't specific when it came to the reason for his recent string of success, it's probably not a coincidence that he's been playing in the paint more often as of late.

Ohio State's best three-point shooter with a 36.2 percent success rate from beyond the arc, the third-team All-Big Ten selection has all but abandoned his outside game in an attempt to exploit smaller defenders. The results have spoken for themselves, as his scoring average has increased despite having only made two 3-pointers in the Buckeyes' past six games.

"A lot of it's come off of going down low," Ross said. "A lot of teams like to switch, so I end up with a lot of smaller guys on me at times, so I try to take advantage of that."

Many expected the recent hot streak of Ross to be the norm for the former four-star prospect in his junior season, as he entered the year as a preseason national player on the year candidate. Inconsistent play, however, hampered Ross early on and he found himself benched down the stretch in three consecutive November games with freshman Marc Loving playing in his place.

Rather than fold, Ross showed resiliency, averaging 18 points per game in nine contests from Nov. 29-Jan. 4. As he explained to, Ross said that his early season struggles were the result of him getting used to an increase in minutes in the absence of former teammate Deshaun Thomas.

"It was just me getting adjusted to my role on the team and me actually playing," Ross said. "This is my first year starting and this is my third year here. I think it was a lot different for me."

Despite not starting until this season, expectations were high for Ross after an NCAA Tournament run in 2013 that saw the then-sophomore average 17.6 points per game in the Buckeyes' final three games of the season. Ross was also trusted to hit the game-winning three in Ohio State's Sweet 16 victory over Arizona, as his play finally appeared to be matching the hype that he brought as a highly-touted prospect in 2011.

"Those were real big moments for me," Ross said. "Especially being able to play in some of those games after not playing the moments that I wanted to last year. My coaches had trust in me during those moments, which were the biggest moments of the season. It felt great. I was able to get my feet wet in the tournament last year and I'm going to try to build of that this year."

Given his recent scoring spurt, Ross appears to be doing just that -- and then some. Now averaging a team-high 15.4 points per game, Ross has bounced back from his slow start and is peaking at the right time for the sixth-seeded Buckeyes, who will face No. 11 seed Dayton in the second round of the NCAA Tournament in Buffalo on Thursday.

"The beginning of my season started off real slow but I began to pick it up toward the middle and in Big Ten play," Ross said. "I can't complain about the season now. I think I'm doing good right now, so that's the only thing that matters. Finding ways to get to the hole is what I do and I've been doing that a lot lately."

And if Ross can continue to do that, the less class he'll be required to attend in the coming weeks.

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