Cleaning The Glass: IUPUI Edition

It was not a thing of beauty, but it was a record-breaking performance from Ohio State freshman Jared Sullinger. men's basketball beat writer Adam Jardy offers his thoughts on Sullinger, OSU's No. 2 ranking and just how deep Thad Matta's bench actually is.

I think … that as I said in the lede to my game story, Ohio State might not yet be the No. 2 team in the country but Jared Sullinger is unquestionably one of the top freshmen in the nation.

Granted, we likely knew that second thought already, but a performance like the one he put on Thursday night seals the deal. The 6-9 Sullinger scored more points in one game than any other Buckeye in his lifetime, but what I liked most about his performance was the way he began demanding the ball in the second half.

A passive person away from the court, Sullinger has an "aw, shucks" kind of personality that comes through when he is asked about a record-breaking performance. Crediting his teammates for his success, Sullinger said he had no idea his night constituted the highest-scoring performance for a freshman in OSU history.

But that attitude almost seems to hold him back on the court at times. It took a talk from head coach Thad Matta with about 16 minutes to go to convince Sullinger to start demanding the ball in the post. Anyone in the arena could clearly see that IUPUI had no answers for the way the big man was playing in the paint and yet he was hesitant to demand the ball because he deemed it too unselfish.

Be selfish, big fella. When you are on like you were on against the Jaguars, demand the ball on every possession. It was clear that the OSU offense should directly involve the freshman as the game went on, and to his credit he recognized that fact and started scoring at will.

The result was a 40-point performance that I will be telling my friends and family about for years to come.

As for the team as a whole, it has to be a stretch to label them the second-best team in the nation. There have been too many lapses in these first seven games to confidently peg them in that hole just yet, but they absolutely have the potential to be there when the NCAA Tournament rolls around.

Until then, the Buckeyes need to tighten up their defense and work on not leaving offensive possessions on the board.

I think … that William Buford continues to confuse me with his play.

The junior guard has looked out of sync for much of this season, but he appeared to have put that behind him when he scored 10 of the team's first 15 points thanks to three jumpers that touched nothing but net and one dunk. At that point I was curious to see if he would be able to continue that impressive play throughout the game – something that has eluded Buford during his OSU career.

He was not able to keep it up, and he did not score again until the 13:58 mark of the second half. In the meantime, he forced a few shots that did not come in the flow of the offense and gave his teammates no opportunity to rebound the basketball.

But as the Buckeyes mounted their comeback, Buford was in the thick of it with an impressive post feed to Sullinger and a driving basket of his own. He finished with 14 points and seven rebounds on 6 of 15 shooting. Matta will take that type of production, but somehow Buford continues to leave me wanting more.

I think … that for all we have said about OSU's deeper bench this season, we are seeing a return to the ironman approach that carried the Buckeyes down the stretch last season.

If the game is shaping up to be a close one, you can count on seeing only two subs in the game: Deshaun Thomas and Aaron Craft. If it is really close, like this one was, Matta might not substitute at all.

After the game, the coach said he knows that he has to do a better job with that but said he liked the feel he had from his players that were on the court. I can respect that final point, but he has to find a way to get players like Thomas and freshman Jordan Sibert into the game. To make a deep tournament run, you would like to see at least seven or eight players seeing consistent minutes.

Plus, I think the fact that senior Dallas Lauderdale saw exactly zero minutes in the second half says plenty. The big man was a non-factor in the first half and Matta did not trust him enough to play with the game on the line. He finished with zero rebounds and no points on one shot attempt.

Time is starting to run out for Lauderdale to turn things around.

I think … that kudos are in order for Craft. In addition to going 35 minutes, the freshman played tough-nosed defense for the entire game and was a pest for IUPUI's guards. Oh, and he added eight assists and five rebounds against three turnovers.

That'll do.

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