October 30, 2012

Thomas and Ross pairing shows flashes

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Follow Noon | Givler | Axelrod | Birmingham

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- When the Ohio State basketball team divided into separate squads for scrimmages this past summer, players were sure to keep Deshaun Thomas and LaQuinton Ross an opposing teams.

On Tuesday, the Buckeyes' two most dynamic scorers got a chance to show what it could do while working towards a common cause.

To the surprise of many, Ross found himself in the OSU starting lineup alongside Thomas when the Buckeyes took the court for their preseason exhibition matchup with Walsh. And while the Buckeyes' lineup for their regular season opener against Marquette next Friday is far from set, their pairing together on Tuesday night shed a light on just why the two wings had to be separated over the summer.

While the game didn't count towards OSU's official record, the two athletic wings stole the show against the Cavaliers offensively, combining for 38 points in the Buckeyes' 83-71 victory.

A preseason All-American, Thomas said that he enjoyed the dynamic that he and Ross provided to this OSU lineup, as both players are athletic wings who can score by either shooting the ball or putting in on the floor.

"We're both scorers that can score inside and out," Thomas said. "We're a mismatch nightmare out there. There's a guard on him, he can post up. If there's a big on me, I can take him off the dribble, and it's good to have another player like that on the side that can score within this offense."

Although the two players are similar in skill sets, the expectations for each couldn't be different coming into this season. While Thomas enters the year as one of the most established players in the country after a breakout season that saw the Indiana native help lead the Buckeyes to the Final Four, Ross has yet to play any significant minutes in college basketball after academic issues prevented him from achieving eligibility until the middle of his freshman season.

Making nine of his 17 shot attempts for 25 points, Thomas looked like the player that many expected him to be coming into the season. Finally the focal point of the OSU offense after two seasons of playing alongside Jared Sullinger, Thomas was pleased with how his unofficial debut as the Buckeyes' No. 1 option went.

"It felt great. Coming off screens, getting open shots, knocking them down," Thomas said. "It just felt great to be back on the court and playing."

As for Ross, OSU coach Thad Matta called Tuesday night a test for the sophomore forward, given the lack of experience that he gained over the course of his freshman season. At times Matta was pleased with what he got out of the Mississippi native, but also admitted that he faired far from perfect against the Cavaliers, especially on the defensive side of the court.

"For LaQuinton, this was a little bit of a test for him tonight in terms of people in the stands, playing against somebody different," Matta said. "The big thing is on the defensive end. We did not guard the ball effectively. We rotated, but there was only one."

Thomas, however, seemed more impressed with Ross' efforts, particularly on the offensive end of the floor, where the Buckeyes have more than 32 points of production to make up for from a year ago thanks to the departures of Sullinger and William Buford.

"He played really well. He really scored through the offense," Thomas said. "He didn't really try to force nothing and that's great coming from a player who really don't need to force nothing, who can score through the offense, because we need that type of player."

Whether or not Ross will be in the Buckeyes' starting lineup in Charlestown, S.C. when Ohio State faces Marquette in the Carrier Classic next Friday remains to be seen, but given that the praise that Matta gave to forward Sam Thompson for his play off the bench, it seems like a safe bet. And for OSU opponents, that could be a scary thing, as they won't have the benefit of splitting Thomas and Ross up, like the Buckeyes did over the summer.


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