COLUMBUS, Ohio - Freshman Jared Sullinger may not be in Columbus for too long so enjoy him while you can. When Ohio State needed a big presence the Buckeye forward went for a freshman record 40 points (first 40 point game by any Buckeye since 1986 - Dennis Hopson) and 13 rebounds as the Buckeyes erased a nine point second half deficit to cruise to a 75-64 win over IUPUI.
William Buford had 14 points and seven rebounds and Jon Diebler had 13 points on 3-5 shooting from outside the arc. But this game will be remembered for what Sullinger was able to do as well as the Buckeyes escaping a scare that went on for more than 30 minutes of the game.
"It was a pretty good night due to my teammates," Sullinger said. "My teammates just finding me in the post where I was posting up but I have to give everything to them."
Things didn't start off all that well for the Buckeyes as the Jaguars shot close to 52-percent in the first half paced behind Alex Young's 13 points (finished with 20) as the Buckeyes were bird dogged to a 35-all tie at the half.
"I think you have to give them a lot of credit," Diebler said. "They came out and played with a lot of energy and made shots. At the same time I don't think we came out with the energy like we needed to especially having nine days off but again they played extremely well tonight. Their coach had them prepared and coach had us prepared and we didn't execute the game plan like we should have."
Ohio State head coach Thad Matta was unhappy with the defensive effort of his team in the first half and did not sub in the second half until the final minutes as the game was in hand.
"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 that I didn't think in the first half we ever drew the line in the sand and said that we were going to get a stop. When teams are making shots the way they were... I don't think we were challenging shots the way we needed to."
The start of the second half was not any better for the Buckeyes and IUPUI rode out to a nine point lead at the 12:40 mark of the half. Diebler started the run for the Buckeyes draining a three pointer 21 seconds after John Ashworth hit a three to extend the lead to 50-41.
Ohio State would close the gap to a two point deficit before Jaguar center Christian Siakam fouled out at the 10:21 mark and at that point the Buckeyes really started to work the ball down low to Big Sully.
"Coach Matta told me to call for it and normally I don't do that because that shows signs of selfishness but that is not me," Sullinger said. "Being the head coach you have got to listen to him so that is what I did."
IUPUI won 25 games last season and has been a victim of a difficult schedule this season en route to a 4-6 record overall. There really was no answer for Sullinger, especially when it was a priority for the Jaguars to take away Ohio State's outside shooting. The Buckeyes went 5-11 from beyond the arc but that victory ended up being a hollow one.
"We won't see many guys like that in our league," IUPUI head coach Ron Hunter said. "Oh wow, he had 40 and 13, he is good... I didn't look at the stat sheet."
Leaving the game however he felt his team had a lot to be proud of and joked that he would take his team out for steak after the game on the ride back to Indianapolis (Ind.) rather than the customary burgers.
"I told our kids (after the game) that at the end of the day that we weren't going to lose this game but they will have to beat us and that is what they did," Hunter said.
Sullinger quietly dedicated the game to his uncle, Harold Sullinger, who passed away recently and Jared played on Thursday with a heavy heart.
"I missed shoot around today and went to see my uncle's viewing," Sullinger said. "I got to see my uncle for the last time and it was real tough and really this game really does go to him. I can still remember the last game he was here (Miami of Ohio) and yelling at me and telling me what to do and I took that to heart."
There is not much time to turnaround for the next game with the Buckeyes in action on Sunday afternoon at 2:00 pm (EST) at St. John Arena against Western Carolina. Fans are reminded that the game will coincide with graduation activities on campus and to allow extra time for parking.