It was Jared Sullinger’s second return to Ohio State’s starting lineup after injury in as many games. This time the sophomore big man finished the game on the floor, helping Ohio State to a 70-50 win over Lamar in Value City Arena Tuesday evening.
Sullinger, who missed the majority of the Buckeyes win at South Carolina Saturday after spraining a tendon in his left foot, bounce back from the injury by recording his sixth double-double of the season with 18 points and 11 rebounds.
“It’s getting better,” Sullinger said after the game when asked about his foot. “The swelling went down. As you can see, I played today, so that’s good.”
Despite sporting a noticeable limp for the majority of the game, Sullinger shook off a rusty start and less than 100 percent health to put forth a performance that resembled the ones he made look routine before suffering from the nagging injuries.
It may be a longer road back to complete health, but Sullinger is pleased with how quickly his body responded to his second injury in as many weeks. He missed two games with back spasms in the last two weeks.
Getting back into the routine, Sullinger said, is now his primary goal. Playing 30 minutes after managing only six against South Carolina was a good start.
“I missed too much with the back spasms and now with the foot,” said Sullinger, who converted on 8-of-11 shot attempts from the floor. “I have to get back in a routine. 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.”
While it was nice to have Sullinger back in the lineup, sophomore Deshaun Thomas – who was just named Big Ten player of the week – continued to play like the team’s No. 1 scoring option, accounting for 16 points.
Thomas’ streak of making 17 consecutive two-point field goal attempts ended on his first shot attempt of the game, which was an air ball, but he shook it off with another productive performance. Thomas, who finished 3-of-4 from beyond the arc, also had five rebounds and two assists.
“I think we played well,” said Thomas, who saw his team shoot only 45.2 percent from the floor in the game. “We could have done some things better. For me, I played alright, I tried to hit shots for my teammates and I played hard.”
Ohio State got a scare late in the first half where senior guard William Buford drew a blocking foul and immediately called to be removed from the game. Buford walked to the Ohio State bench with his right shoulder slumped and didn’t return for the remainder of the first half.
Head coach Thad Matta said it was just a stinger and Buford played again in the second half, but the senior had a poor shooting night, finishing with only seven points after converting on 3-of-11 shot attempts.
Luckily for Matta, Lamar didn’t shoot much better, as the visitors shot only 38 percent in the game and missed on all nine shots from beyond the arc. It was the first time since 1992 where Ohio State held an opponent scoreless from long range.
“We can’t shoot the 3s,” said Lamar coach Pat Knight, who’s father, Bob, was honored at halftime. “That was a problem with this team last year because that was all they wanted to do. We’re just not a good shooting team – we’ve got to ground and pound and take the ball to the basket.”
Bob Knight, an Ohio State grad and member of the Buckeyes 1962 national championship team, received a University Ambassador Medal at halftime, which was presented to him by Archie Griffin, the CEO and president of Ohio State’s alumni association.
“Ohio State runs pretty deep in our family,” Pat Knight said after the game. “That’s what makes it neat about what Thad did here. The last two days have been good for him to get back up here.”
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