COLUMBUS, Ohio -- If there was one positive that Thad Matta took away from Ohio State's 73-68 loss to Duke on Saturday, it was the play of his relatively young bench, which combined for 18 points in the Buckeyes' defeat at the hands of the Blue Devils.
Ohio State's super subs took another step in the right direction on Saturday, scoring a combined 32 points in the Buckeyes' 70-43 win over Northern Kentucky at the Schottenstein Center.
Sophomore LaQuinton Ross led the way for the Buckeyes, scoring a career-high 22 points against the Norse. Playing in 15 first half minutes and 29 for the game, the 6-foot-8 sophomore forward appears to be earning the trust of his coaching staff, after Wednesday's loss to Duke saw him saddled on the bench for the first 18 minutes of the second half.
"He had a tremendous practice yesterday," Matta said of Ross. "I thought he was very efficient today in what he was able to do on the floor."
With 13 of his points coming in the first half, the Buckeyes needed all that they could get from Ross, after a slow start saw OSU only lead NKU by two points through the first nine minutes of action. The same shooting woes that plagued the Buckeyes in the second half in Durham appeared to follow them back to Columbus, with Ohio State connecting on just 10 of its 33 shot attempts in the first half on Saturday.
"I thought we had great looks. I told them at halftime, 'We have to put the ball in the basket,'" Matta said. "We weren't as cohesive as I wanted them to be today."
Fortunately for the Buckeyes, the Norse had an even tougher time putting the ball in the bucket in the first half, making a total of eight field goals on 32 tries. NKU's struggles from the field allowed OSU to put together a 21-5 run late in the first half, before taking a 36-19 lead into intermission.
OSU found its stroke in the second half, connecting on 13-of-28 shot attempts after halftime. The Buckeyes extended their lead to as many as 30 points, cruising to a victory that saw them force 20 NKU turnovers, which they then converted into 22 points.
"When we're all five on a string, when we're all five together defensively, we're a tough team to score on," OSU forward Sam Thompson said. "That's something we can hang our hats on as a team, really defending well. It's just something that was try to get better at every day."
OSU forward Deshaun Thomas added 14 points to the Buckeyes' efforts, while Thompson scored 10. After a 3-of-15 performance against Duke on Wednesday, Aaron Craft's shooting struggles continued, with the OSU guard connecting on just two of his nine shot attempts on Saturday.
"He's had two games where he's struggled to put the ball in the basket, and I'm not even flinching on that," Matta said. "I know he can do that."
Ohio State's win on Saturday kicked off an eight-game homestand for the Buckeyes, with their next game away from the Schottenstein Center not coming until Jan. 5. OSU won't play again until next Saturday, when the Buckeyes will host Long Beach State for a 12 p.m. tip-off.