Sullinger leads No. 2 Ohio State over Lamar, 70-50By RUSTY MILLER, AP Sports Writer Tuesday, Dec 20, 2011
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP)—Jared Sullinger felt he needed to play, even if he wasn’t 100 percent.
Whatever that percentage was, it was still pretty good.
“It’s life. You don’t go through a career in basketball injury-free,” the 6-foot-9 sophomore said. “Fortunately, it’s now instead of life.”
The most important stat was that he played 30 minutes.
“I missed too much,” he said of his recent minutes lost due to physical ailments. “The back spasms and now the foot, I’ve got to get back into the routine. I can’t really sit here and wait for it to heal up. By that time, I won’t have my timing down on plays, defensively or offensively. So I had to get back as soon as possible.”
Coach Thad Matta said it was essential for Sullinger to get back on the court. He said any absence, but particularly that of your best player, adds to the trials of being a coach.
“It does because you’re not in full force. It’s the unknown—is this guy going to play, is he going to practice, how good is he if he does,” Matta said. “Without question those are some of the things that play into it. Hopefully now we’re getting him back and we can continue to see the improvement on a daily basis.”
Deshaun Thomas, chosen as the Big Ten’s player of the week on Monday, added 16 points for the Buckeyes (11-1). His streak of making 17 consecutive two-point field goal attempts ended on his first shot of the game.
Devon Lamb and Stan Brown each had 10 points for Lamar (8-4), which had a four-game winning streak come to an end. The Cardinals’ record against Big Ten teams dropped to 1-5.
The Cardinals were 0 for 12 on 3-point shots, marking the first time an Ohio State opponent didn’t hit a 3 in 621 games, dating to 1992.
“We can’t shoot 3s,” Lamar coach Pat Knight said. “That was their goal last year, to shoot a lot of them. At halftime I told them they couldn’t shoot a 3 until they made four passes.”
The Buckeyes had played three of their last four games without Sullinger healthy. The All-America missed two games with back spasms—including Ohio State’s only loss, a 78-67 setback at No. 13 Kansas on Dec. 10—and all but 6 minutes of Saturday’s 74-66 win at South Carolina with an ankle injury.
But he warmed up without any obvious discomfort, was in the starting lineup and picked up his sixth double-double of the season.
It was important that Sullinger get back in condition and play a lot, Matta said.
“Truth be told, he hasn’t done anything for three weeks,” he said. “That’s hard in the middle of the season. So as he talks about his rhythm and timing, those are areas you can only get through playing games and high-level practicing.”
The win was Ohio State’s 32nd straight at home, extending the second-longest streak in school history.
Pat Knight’s father, Hall of Fame coach Bob Knight, was honored at halftime with an alumni award. A 1962 graduate of Ohio State, he was a member of the 1960 team that won the school’s only national championship.
The Buckeyes trailed just once, 4-3, and slowly took over the game.
A 3-pointer by Lenzelle Smith Jr. made it 6-4 and touched off an 11-2 run that put the Buckeyes in command to stay.
Thomas hit a 3 from the left corner late in the half to give Ohio State a 34-21 lead. They maintained a double-figure lead the rest of the way while mixing in subs and despite some cold shooting by William Buford. He finished 3 of 11 from the field for seven points, leaving the court at one point in the first half while grimacing and holding his right shoulder.
Aaron Craft had his usual all-around game for Ohio State with four points, six assists and three steals.
The loudest cheer of the game came in the closing seconds when Shannon Scott tossed an alley-oop pass to J.D. Weatherspoon for a dunk, allowing the Buckeyes to reach 70 points—and giving the fans free french fries at a fast-food chain.
The Buckeyes improved to 77-2 against nonconference opponents in Columbus in Matta’s tenure.
Bob Knight received a University Ambassador Medal, presented by the president and CEO of Ohio State’s alumni association, two-time Heisman Trophy winner Archie Griffin.
Knight teased Griffin that “you could play for me” but added he’d have to play defense because he wouldn’t let him shoot.
Knight also said he was grateful for his days at Ohio State, particularly what he learned under his late coach, Fred Taylor.
“I don’t know what I would have become,” Knight said. “I don’t think it would have been a minister.”
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