Sullinger’s Return Lifts Buckeyes over Lamar
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Jared Sullinger wasn’t at his best Tuesday night, and neither were the Buckeyes, but his return was enough to lift No. 2 Ohio State to a 70-50 win over Lamar University.
Photo by Jim Davidson
Sullinger returned from his latest injury to score 18 points and grab 11 rebounds in 30 minutes of action. He also blocked two shots and was 8-of-11 from the floor after leaving Ohio State’s game at South Carolina with bone bruise in his left foot.
“You don’t go through a career of basketball injury-free. It’s just something I have to go through,” Sullinger said after the game.
“Fortunately, it’s now and not later.”
Ohio State’s star sophomore was still moving with a slight limp as he returned to the starting lineup. He could have sat out another game, but said he wanted to get back on the court and back in a rhythm before the start of Big Ten play later this month.
“I missed too much with the back spasms and now with the foot. I have to get back in a routine,” Sullinger said.
“I can’t sit here and wait for it to heal. By that time I won’t have my timing down defensively and offensively. I had to get back as soon as possible.”
Sullinger’s return helped the Buckeyes (11-1) mask the fact they shot just 39 percent from the floor in the first half and 42 percent from the free throw line all night.
Ohio State still held a 34-21 lead at halftime thanks to a three from Deshaun Thomas just before the buzzer, but head coach Thad Matta was not overly pleased with his team’s effort in the first half.
“I have to find the answer,” Matta said afterward.
“I think it will come from the standpoint of the mentality of thinking outside the box to make sure we’re ready. We need to get to the point where we can sustain our effort throughout the game.”
The Buckeyes did shoot 51 percent in the second half. They got 16 points and five rebounds from Thomas, who named the Big Ten's player of the week on Monday, but no other Buckeye scored in double-figures.
Photo by Jim Davidson
Senior William Buford had only seven points on 3-of-11 shooting. He also had four assists and two rebounds, but was battling a stinger for much of the night after being elbowed in what Matta called his trapezius muscle.
“We wanted to make the game ugly, limit them in transition and keep the game in the 60s or 70s,” Lamar coach Pat Knight said.
“We knew we didn’t stand a chance if they scored in the 80s or 90s, so we tried our best to slow the game down.”
The Buckeyes honored Pat’s father, the legendary Bob Knight at halftime, but the Cardinals were 0-for-12 from behind the arc with 16 turnovers. They were also outscored 42-26 in the paint, but it was the forced outside shots that really bothered their coach.
“We can’t shoot the 3s, and that was a problem with this team last year because that was all they wanted to do,” Knight said.
“We’re just not a good shooting team – we’ve got to ground and pound and take the ball to the basket.”
Ohio State did a great job of that in the second half, getting the ball in to Sullinger early and often. He scored 12 of his 16 points in the second half, including eight of the Buckeyes’ first 10 points.
That gave Ohio State a 17-point lead at the 16-minute mark of the second half and the lead would first get to 20 on Sullinger’s layup with 7:58 remaining in the game. J.D. Weatherspoon, Sullinger’s high school teammate, closed it out with an alley-oop dunk off a pass by point guard Shannon Scott in the final seconds.
The Buckeyes will be back in action Thursday, as they face Miami University (Ohio) at Nationwide Arena (8:30 p.m. ET).
“We’ve only done it once since I’ve been here,” Matta said.
“It is a very similar arena (to Value City Area). We have an in-state team. It’s a good game for us; they have a great coach. It’s overall just a great game to have before Christmas.”
Season Stats Year to Date
Win Over Lamar Wake-up Call for Buckeyes - by Ben Axelrod
First Thoughts - by Tony Gerdeman
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