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February 1, 2013

Ross picking up playing time as a sophomore

Follow Noon | Givler | Axelrod | Birmingham

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Arriving at Ohio State a quarter later than he originally intended to, LaQuinton Ross found himself with little playing time, and in his mind, little reason to pay attention to the Buckeyes' coaching staff. So he channeled his inner-Kanye West.

"The beginning of the year, last year, I got a little rebellious against stuff they said 'cause I wasn't playing much," Ross said following his team's 58-49 win over Wisconsin on Tuesday. "So I was like, 'You can't tell me nothing.'"

Ross' attitude seemingly followed him into his sophomore season, where the 6-foot-8 forward saw sporadic playing time throughout the out-of-conference schedule and the start of Big Ten play. But as the conference season continues, Thad Matta and his staff seem to possess a newfound confidence in the Jackson, Miss. native.

Since playing just three minutes in Ohio State's win over Michigan on Jan. 13, Ross has averaged 16.5 minutes per game in the four contests that followed. The reserve forward played 20 minutes each in two of those games, including OSU's beating of the Badgers on Tuesday.

Scoring eight points on 3-of-4 shooting, Ross registered as the Buckeyes' third leading scorer, trailing Deshaun Thomas' 25 points and Aaron Craft's 13-point effort. Although he scored more points in multiple games before league play, no outing of Ross' had been more important than his one of Tuesday, where he hit a three-point shot in the midst of 15-0 OSU run.

"Basically the same thing they tell me before every game: just stay ready," Ross said when asked what the Buckeyes' coaches' message was to him before the game. "And coach gave me the minutes so I had to step up."

Not all of Ross' production can be measured in his own personal box score. Arguably the second-most talented scorer on the OSU roster behind Thomas, the No. 43 nationally ranked recruit in the 2011 class helped open things up for his teammates in the Buckeyes' sixth Big Ten win of the season.

"Him coming off the bench, hitting big shots, it's another piece to our puzzle," Thomas said of his younger teammate. "It helps our team a lot and it lets you know there's a lot of weapons out there."

After missing the entire preseason of his freshman year and the first month of the 2011-12 season due to his failure to initially academically qualify, Ross averaged just 3.9 minutes of action while only appearing in nine games a year ago. At the start of his sophomore season, the Life Center Academy product's playing time fluctuated, with Matta admitting that he was reluctant to play Ross in certain situations because he felt the forward was a defensive liability.

Ross' defensive effort has since improved, but perhaps more importantly, so has his attitude.

"It's not just about scoring, 'cause you gotta do stuff on the other end. That is what this team is known for," Ross said. "Me as a player, I think the biggest way I've probably grown is listening. Not even dealing with basketball, but just listening to everything that my coaches try to feed me."

Words like that are music to the ears of Matta, who admitted that his team is at its best, when Ross is at his.

"What (Ross) said, I don't know if I could've said it better than what he said. He's listening, he's getting some toughness about him," Matta said. "We need LaQuinton to continue at the pace he is, because he's definitely helping us."



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