Buckeyes Ride Sullinger’s Career Night to Victory Over IUPUI
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — With his team on the ropes for the first time in his collegiate career, Jared Sullinger went back to high school.
Photo by Jim Davidson
Coming off a nine-day layoff during finals week, No. 2 Ohio State looked flat and very beatable on their home court in the first 30 minutes against Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis Thursday.
The heavily-favored Buckeyes trailed by nine points near the midway point of the second half, but their freshman phenom scored 22 of his career-high 40 points down the stretch as Ohio State (7-0) pulled off a 75-64 win over IUPUI (4-6).
“That was kind of our gameplan,” OSU Head Coach Thad Matta said after the game.
“We felt like against the zone there was going to be a lot of post-iso's. We knew they were coming and I thought Jared did a great job of cutting to the basket quick before the double-team could get here.”
Double-team or no double-team, the Jaguars had no answer for Sullinger. With their gameplan aimed at stopping Ohio State’s outside shooters, IUPUI let the Buckeyes most dangerous weapon beat them inside.
The reigning high school player of the year scored on 12 of his 17 field goal tries and sank 16 of his 23 foul shots on his way to breaking Michael Redd’s Ohio State freshman scoring-record.
“Get him in the draft early,” IUPUI Head Coach Ron Hunter suggested as a way for future opponents to gameplan for stopping Sullinger.
“We won't see many guys like that in our league. He is good.”
Initially, it looked like it was junior William Buford who was in for a big night. He scored 10 of Ohio State’s first 15 points, but the Buckeyes trailed 17-15 at the 14:14 mark and the Jaguars weren’t going to go away.
“I told the kids at the end of the day we weren’t going to lose this game, they were going to have to beat us,” Hunter said.
“A lot of times what happens is by the time they realize we can play, sometimes it’s too late.”
With big man Alex Young knocking down shots from behind the arc, the Buckeyes were forced to keep center Dallas Lauderdale on the bench for all but eight minutes. Young continued to hit shots, even when guarded by defensive specialist David Lighty and IUPUI tied the game at 35 points apiece on an inbounds play just before the end of the first half.
“I think IUPUI came in here and knocked us on our heels a little bit tonight,” Matta said.
“The disappointing thing for me and our team was, I didn’t think the first half we ever drew the line in the sand and said, ‘okay, we’re going to get a stop.’”
Despite taking mostly jump shots, the Jaguars shot 52 percent from the floor in the first half and made five of their 10 shots from behind the arc while turning the ball over just three times against the second-ranked team in the country.
“When teams are making shots the way they were, I don’t think we were challenging shots at the level we needed to,” Matta added.
“They were holding the ball, bringing the shot clock into it. We knew that going into the game, but you just can’t let them score as many times as they did at the end of the shot clock.”
IUPUI opened the second half with more of the same and took a 50-41 lead at the 12:40 mark of the second half on a three by guard John Ashworth.
All of a sudden an upset no longer seemed impossible for 25-point underdog IUPUI.
“We led San Diego State, who I think is ranked in the top 20, at the half. We led them for 30 minutes,” Hunter said.
“We played Northwestern and we beat them (in the past), we’ve beaten Georgia Tech, we beat Seaton Hall.”
But none of those teams had a kid like Sullinger, who simply refused to allow his team to lose despite the fact they were not at their best.
“My brothers, they kind of built that into me,” said Jared, the younger brother of former Buckeye J.J. Sullinger.
“Every time we lost in high school or middle school, or even AAU, they always blamed it on me. I take that to heart. You’ve got to hate losing more than you love winning.”
With Sullinger pounding the glass and attacking the basket with reckless abandon things finally opened up on the outside. Moments after falling behind by nine, three-point specialist Jon Diebler connected on a big shot from the corner to spark an 11-0 run by the Buckeyes.
“I thought if we got something established down there it would open up the outside,” Matta said.
“Obviously we stuck with throwing it down there, but I felt like our post guys could have a big night but I didn't know it would be this big. Until they adjusted, we were going to stick with it.”
Sullinger chipped in with a two-handed dunk in transition and drew a charge at the other end as the Buckeyes took a 52-50 lead at the 8:37 mark of the second half.
Diebler connected another big three to give OSU a 57-54 lead and Sullinger took over from there. The 6-foot-9 power forward scored 14 of the team’s final 18 points as they pulled away for an 11-point win.
It was the most points ever scored at Value City Arena, and the first 40-point game by a Buckeye since Dennis Hopson dropped 41 on Dayton back in 1986. It was the 23rd 40-point game in school history, but only the fourth since the days of Jerry Lucas and Gary Bradds in the early 1960s.
Afterwards, Sullinger dedicated the monster to his late uncle Harold and credited his teammates for all his success.
“It was a pretty good night,” said Sullinger, who missed the team’s shoot-around to attend his uncle’s viewing.
“My teammates were finding me in the post a lot. I have to give credit to them.”
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