The first time that Ohio State’s LaQuinton Ross took a shot, North Florida coach Matthew Driscoll knew it was going to be a long night.
Ross broke out of a frigid shooting spell by scoring 17 points Friday night and the seventh-ranked Buckeyes rode a 19-point first-half run to a 99-64 victory over the overmatched Ospreys.
“He hit that first 3 from the corner and I started thinking to myself, ‘Oh, Lord. Here we go,’” said Driscoll, who has known Ross since he was in middle school.
Ross hit 6-of-9 shots from the field and 4-of-7 3-pointers after struggling all year to find his range.
The 6-foot-8 junior with a silky touch had a terrific run in the NCAA tournament a year ago, coming off the bench to give the Buckeyes instant offense on the way to the regional championship game.
This year he was expected to replace departed Big Ten scoring leader Deshaun Thomas, but came in shooting just 22 percent from the field and averaging 6.2 points a game.
Over the last three games he was only 2 for 20 from the field including 1 for 8 behind the arc.
But he came out cool and confident against the Ospreys. He hit all four shots from the field — including both 3-pointers — while picking up 10 points in the opening half as Ohio State built a 48-29 lead.
Buckeyes coach Thad Matta couldn’t have been happier to see the ice thaw on Ross’ jumper.
“LaQuinton got into a little bit of a groove,” he said. “He and I talked the other day. I just said, ‘Look, we can’t make shots for you. We can’t think for you out there on the court.’
“I told him we were going to put him in positions to be successful. He was probably humbled a little bit the way he’s shot the ball the last few games. It was great to see the ball go in for him.”
Ross’ hot shooting carried over to the rest of the Buckeyes, too. They came in shooting 42 percent on the season but shot 69 percent against North Florida— the sixth-best shooting percentage in program history.
Amir Williams and Amedeo Della each hit career highs for the Buckeyes (6-0), with 18 and 17 points, respectively. Aaron Craft added 16 points, making his first 3-pointer of the season, while Lenzelle Smith Jr. had 10.
“When guys see other guys make shots, it boosts everyone’s confidence,” Smith said.