Cody Cousino/ Photo editor
A rare thing happened during the Ohio State men’s basketball game in the Schottenstein Center on Monday night.
With 12:31 remaining in the first half of OSU’s contest against North Florida, Buckeyes sophomore forward Jared Sullinger headed to the bench having scored as many points as the number he wears on his jersey.
After returning to the game less than two minutes later, OSU’s No. 0 scored his first points, and many more, overcoming his slow start to lead the Buckeyes in scoring during their 85-50 win over the Ospreys.
Sullinger scored an 27 points — his highest output of the young 2011-12 season — as he connected on 9-of-16 field goal attempts while also shooting 9-of-10 from the free-throw line. Along the way, Sullinger scored the 700th point of his OSU career.
“It’s kind of selfish of me, but at the same time it’s something coach (Thad) Matta wants to see, you know, me take over a basketball game,” Sullinger said after the game. “It was one of those days.”
After the game, Sullinger gave credit to UNF, who double-teamed him early and often, for making his life difficult around the basket for the first nine minutes of the game.
“This basketball team, North Florida, is pretty good,” Sullinger said. “They’re very disciplined … they came out ready to play.”
UNF coach Matthew Driscoll said his team’s early effectiveness against Sullinger came from his own team’s physicality.
“When you play those guys and you wall them up and make them play through their chest, it’s a hard shot to make, I don’t care if you’re 6-foot-4 or 6-foot-9,” Driscoll said. “We kind of made him try to make shots over us, which he’s a great angle scorer.”
The Ospreys’ effort could only contain Sullinger for so long- on both ends of the court- as the sophomore forward also led the Buckeyes in rebounding with a season-high 13 boards, giving him his second double-double of the season.
The 27-point effort from the sophomore forward maintains Sullinger’s status as OSU’s leading scorer on the season, as he is averaging 20.5 points through the Buckeyes’ first four games. His effort didn’t only affect his box score, but the stat lines of his teammates, like Deshaun Thomas, who finished the game with a season-high 16 points.
“It was just kind of clicking tonight,” Thomas said. “Playing off Sully and Will (Buford) and just knocking down shots.”
A national player of the year candidate, Sullinger also recorded a season-high three steals while playing in 27 minutes against the Ospreys- the second-least amount of time he’s spent on the court during a game this season. Monday night was the first of three games the Buckeyes will play in the next five days, with a Wednesday game against Virginia Military and a Friday match-up with Valparaiso still to come.
“This is a mental toughness week, I mean, with a game, practice, game, practice, game,” Sullinger said. “It’s really kind of a test for what we got coming. It’s almost like a midterm for March.”