Buckeyes pound Maryland

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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- When LaQuinton Ross relaxes, said Ohio State coach Thad Matta, he becomes an average player.

Against Maryland, the junior forward looked anything but pedestrian.

After falling into late-November slump, Ross appears to be playing more and more like the future NBA lottery pick that some folks expect him to be.

In bout with the Terrapins as part of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, he scored 20 points to help guide the fifth-ranked Buckeyes to a 76-60 win Wednesday evening at the Schottenstein Center.

"I like seeing him in terms of just the look on his face, it's a little bit different there," said coach Thad Matta.

Ohio State -- which also find itself ranked fifth in the USA Today coaches poll -- shot 52 percent, including a 44-percent outing from behind the arc.

"(We've) been really talking about the shooting and the shot preparation and as elementary as it sounds the hand placement on the ball. Feet set, equal push, all those things," Matta said.

"I felt like the last couple of weeks are percentages in practices have been very very high and to carry it over into the last couple of games that's good because when you see how hard these kids work and all the things that we do you like to see them play well on game night."

Against Maryland, such efforts were on full -- and emphatic -- display.

Sam Thompson, who soared time and again to the basket on alley-oop dunks, chipped in 14 points and Lenzelle Smith Jr. had 12.

"You know, it's funny because a lot of times I have deja vu of myself when I was player and he does things and I say, 'That's what I used to look like,'" Matta said jokingly with an ear-to-ear smile.

"He's always a threat. When he's running, you've got to protect and the thing that most people probably don't see is a lot of things develop when he runs hard because he can suck a defense in and because you know something can happen and a lot of times we score off of him just running through because there's that threat right there."

But on this day, at the epicenter of the Buckeyes' offensive production was Ross.

"I think he's slowed things down in his mind and it definitely makes us a better basketball team because there's another guy out there in terms of they can stretch the defense," Matta said.

After he opened up the contest with four-straight three pointers, Ohio State (7-0) built a 12-point cushion that ballooned before intermission.

Maryland simply couldn't find him the first half.

"It's amazing how -- as a competitor -- a guy hits a shot and he's known as a shooter, I know he hadn't shot it well till the last game, but you don't find him," said Terrapins coach Mark Turgeon.


The Buckeyes -- which shot 54 percent from the floor during the period -- connected on six-of-10 shots from behind the arc and scored 18 points of off Maryland's 10 turnovers.

"It was a great opportunity for us and I just don't think we competed when we needed to compete. It's easy to compete when you're down 20, you gotta compete when the game's on the line and we didn't do that so hopefully we'll learn from it," Turgeon said.

Ohio State led at halftime, 43-26.

There would be no comeback for the Terrapins, which were unable to overcome a 35-percent shooting effort in the first half or contend with Thad Matta's crew's swarming defense.

"(Aaron) Craft was in total control of the game on both ends of the floor and they made shots and quite frankly, they're a good defensive team, we didn't make shots tonight," Turgeon said. "But a lot of that had to do with that, I thought they were terrific on defense."

So good, in fact, that it gave way to offense for the Buckeyes.

"No matter how well we're shooting the ball, no matter how well we're playing offensively, we'll always be a team that hangs our hat on the defensive end," Thompson said.

"And we will always be a team that likes to get our offense from our defense and anytime our defense is clicking like that and we're able to get some easy layups in transition, some easy layups off of our defense, it really gets us in a good rhythm and good flow offensively."

It worked for Ohio State, which led by as many as 25 late in the second half, despite being outrebounded, 44-30.

The Buckeyes are set to play Central Connecticut Saturday 4:30 p.m.