Make no mistake: the freshman forward had a mammoth game for Ohio State, and without him the Buckeyes would have likely gone down to an upset bid from Northwestern. Not only were his 20 points and 18 rebounds incredible, but further examination of his stats makes those numbers even more impressive.
In overtime, Sullinger scored 10 of his team's 15 points – all from the charity stripe. He was perfect on his 10 attempts and was not credited with a shot attempt in the stanza. That means that literally every time he attempted a shot, Sullinger was fouled.
I understand that the Buckeyes are in this tournament to win it. True players want to win any game placed in front of them, and you need that kind of mentality to win a national championship. But at some point, head coach Thad Matta should thinking about what lies ahead and find a way to get Sullinger some rest.
Senior guard Jon Diebler also went 45 minutes in the win, but his minutes were a cakewalk compared to what Sullinger went through. The big man was all over the court, getting beaten upon and knocked to the floor on what seemed like every possession. He responded by going 16 for 18 from the charity stripe in the final 25 minutes after not getting there in the first half.
If Sullinger is in there, he is going to go all out. Matta needed to give him a rest in this one with perhaps two games in as many days looming on the calendar before getting started in the NCAA Tournament.
Conversely, wouldn't you like to see Dallas Lauderdale on the court for more than five minutes?
The Buckeyes are a No. 1 seed from here on out. A Big Ten tournament title would be nice, but Matta needs to save some legs this time.
I think … that I liked Matta's decision not to call a timeout when his team got the ball with 22 seconds remaining in a tied game.
We have seen Matta take this approach at other times this season. In the road win against Northwestern, the Buckeyes scored the game-winning basket in the final seconds without Matta calling time to draw up a plan for his opponents.
What does this mean? It shows that Matta has confidence in his players on the court without his instruction on a possession-by-possession basis. If you watch Indiana, for example, Tom Crean has to call time before every possession near the end of a close game in order to diagram what his players need to do.
The Buckeyes already know what they have to do, and Matta lets them play. When you start thinking ahead to the insanity that comes with the NCAA Tournament, that is a nice card to have up OSU's sleeve.
I think … that Aaron Craft demonstrated how vitally important he is to this team with his performance against the Wildcats.
With William Buford and Jon Diebler struggling away from the basket and David Lighty in foul trouble, it was Craft to the rescue as he finished with 17 points. Nine of those points came in the first half when the Buckeyes were stagnant offensively.
Craft carried OSU when someone needed to step up. He is just another weapon in Matta's arsenal and an example of what is going to make this team such a tough out in the tournament. When Diebler and Buford combine to go 2 for 10 from deep, Lighty goes 3 of 8 from the field and Sullinger makes only 2 of 12 field goals, someone must pick up the slack.
Credit to the freshman for being able to take on a more aggressive role in this game, and if he has to be more of a facilitator tomorrow and dish out more assists in order for OSU to win, I am sure he will do just that.
I think … that I have to give Lauderdale some credit too.
My view on press row was upgraded compared to OSU's home games, and I was granted a seat behind the Buckeyes' bench. As such, I noticed a few off-court actions that I normally would not see.
As Sullinger looked to be getting frustrated throughout the game, Lauderdale was the first player in his ear. The senior demonstrated all kinds of leadership to the player who has essentially taken all of his minutes this season.
That right there is the definition of a leader. I have all kinds of respect for Lauderdale.