With No. 2 Ohio State leading visiting South Carolina 65-37 with 10:49 left in the contest, the scoreboard showed an animated video with a number of Buckeyes engaging in a fake snowball fight. Dodging projectiles while dancing on top of a gingerbread house, Sullinger was finally nailed in the breadbasket by senior forward David Lighty.
The crowd roared in laughter and then settled back in to watch an expected close contest continue its descent into a blowout thanks to the play of the freshman. Sullinger scored 30, grabbed a career-high 19 rebounds and helped the Buckeyes easily handle the visiting Gamecocks by a 79-57 score.
He credited the team's scouting report with helping him avoid South Carolina's shot-blocking attempts.
"My effort was there," he said. "Rebounding is something I key in on in my stats. If I'm not rebounding it shows I'm not playing hard. If I had 19 rebounds I was really into the game today."
Sullinger's 19 boards tied him with Greg Oden for the second-most by a freshman in OSU history and the 30 points were the second-most in the same category. He already holds the single-game scoring record for a freshman after putting up 40 against IUPUI on Dec. 9. OSU eked out a 75-64 win in that one.
This was a more lopsided affair against what was expected to be stiffer competition. In the midst of a stretch of games that will see OSU face seven teams in less than 19 days, only two of them will be against teams that entered Saturday's games with winning records. Atop the list was South Carolina, which sat at 7-1 overall and leading the SEC East.
Instead, the contest turned into a laugher by the time the second half kicked off and Sullinger wasted little time making his presence felt. He missed a shot on his team's first possession but connected on a pair of free throws on the next to start what would become a trend.
Six of South Carolina's first seven fouls came as a result of trying to stop Sullinger. When he was given his first breather of the night at the 12:12 mark, he received his first standing ovation of the night after scoring 11 points and grabbing six rebounds in helping OSU out to an 18-6 lead.
The Gamecocks opened with 6-6 forward Malik Cooke guarding the 6-9 Sullinger. He picked up his first two fouls in the first 3:42 of the game and was headed to the bench. Up next was 6-9 reserve Damontre Harris, who also picked up two fouls in the span of less than two minutes and headed to the bench as well.
Even when things went wrong for Sullinger, he found a way to make them go right. The Buckeyes received the ball with 2.6 seconds left in the first half after the Gamecocks were whistled for their third unforced traveling violation of the stanza. Head coach Thad Matta called timeout and drew up an inbounds play from midcourt that was supposed to see Lighty lob a pass to Sullinger, who would then tip it back to him as he streaked toward the basket.
The freshman did not get a clean reception, however. Standing on the V painted well beyond the three-point arc, Sullinger heaved a 30-foot shot that touched the glass and fell through after time expired, bringing the crowd to a frenzy.
"The play was to go to Dave," Sullinger said. "The guy grabbed me and I couldn't catch the ball clean. All I heard was Dave say shoot it so I did. In practice we always throw up shots like that."
That made it 42-21 in favor of the home team. It also gave him 18 points and 10 boards, already securing the fifth double-double of his career. None of South Carolina's starters had more than one first-half basket.
The second half was a closer affair with OSU outscoring the visitors by a 37-36 margin. After going 8 of 30 (26.7 percent) in the first half, the Gamecocks hit on half of their 30 second-half shots.
Lighty lamented his team's defensive effort.
"I wasn't happy about that one at all," he said. "That's just us coming out and being mentally prepared for the second half like we were for the first half. That's the next step of us becoming a better team."
Three days after tying a school record with nine three-pointers in a victory against Florida Gulf Coast, senior Jon Diebler finished with 11 points and went 2 of 6 from three-point range while extending his streak of at least one trey in each game to 26.
Junior guard William Buford added 12 points for the Buckeyes. Center Sam Muydrow led the Gamecocks with 14 points while Cooke added 13.