Notebook: Sullinger's Big Moment

As top-seeded Ohio State turns the page and focuses in on a Sunday matchup with George Mason, take one final look back at Friday's lopsided win against Texas-San Antonio with this notebook.

On the eve of his first NCAA Tournament game, Ohio State freshman forward Jared Sullinger said he would not be able to express his feelings until after the game.

In his team's locker room Friday night after a 75-46 win against Texas-San Antonio, he again asked for an extension.

"It was fun, but at the same time I can't get too high, I can't get too low because we've got a quick turnaround with George Mason," he said. "I know I hit you with, ‘Ask me after the game,' so ask me after Sunday's game and I'll let you know because we've got a big break in between."

There was a key moment for Sullinger but it occurred before the game started. The contest marked the eve of the five-year anniversary of the day when his oldest brother, J.J., implored him to become a Buckeye.

On March 19, 2006, OSU dropped a 70-52 decision to Georgetown in the second round of the NCAA Tournament in a game played at Dayton's UD Arena. It was there that the older brother offered his advice.

"That really was a special moment," Jared said.

Early on in this one, Sullinger admitted to having a freshman moment. Matched up with junior forward Larry Wilkins, the Big Ten freshman of the year was whistled for a charge after he drew contact.

"He played a great mind game," Sullinger said. "He bumped me, bumped me, bumped me and kept pushing me. Finally I thought, ‘he's going to hold his ground.' I did the power move, he fell and I was like, ‘Aw, he just got me. He played me for a fool.' It was a good play for him."

In addition, Sullinger was sporting a protective wrap on his lower left leg that extended from his ankle to his upper shin. It was a precautionary measure, he said, after injuring it during the Big Ten tournament.

"I'm just taking care of it," he said. "It's a routine now. I don't remember what happened but it doesn't hurt anymore. I'm just doing it to do it."

Homecoming: For David Lighty and Dallas Lauderdale, it was good to go home again. The OSU seniors each prepped in northeast Ohio: Lighty at Cleveland Villa Angela-St. Joseph and Lauderdale at Solon.

Each player received a rousing ovation from the crowd of 20,164 – the largest crowd ever to watch a college basketball game in Ohio history – as he was introduced in the starting lineup. It carried over to the game, as each player gave the fans something to cheer about.

Lighty finished with eight points on 3-of-5 shooting and five assists in 30 minutes while Lauderdale had four points, four rebounds and three blocks. One of his baskets came on a one-handed dunk off an inbounds play that brought the crowd to its feet.

"These are the same great fans that have been following me my whole career," Lauderdale said. "They followed me while I was at Solon so I know what to expect from these fans and that's nothing but love. I definitely appreciate it. I appreciate the love they've given Dave and me throughout our careers and I know it won't stop."

Said Sullinger of that dunk: "Dallas is a freak of nature sometimes. He has long arms and he can jump. He caught that with one hand and just dunked it. It was a great dunk."

Asked if Lighty knew where his family was during the game, he said, "Right behind the bench. I saw them."

Pick Your Poison: After he scored 29 points in his team's play-in victory against Arkansas State, Melvin Johnson became the focal point of OSU's defense. With Lighty shadowing him for much of the game, Johnson was harassed into a 1-for-9 performance that amounted to five points.

Leading the way in his place was Devin Gibson, who with 24 points was the only UTSA player in double figures.

"We knew the game that Johnson was coming off of, and he was the guy that we know we couldn't let get going," senior guard Jon Diebler said. "For the most part, we did a pretty good job on him, but I think we just need to do a better job on the team defense on Gibson."

Graduation: Four players on OSU's roster have now graduated, but they will not be able to attend Sunday's commencement because of their contest with George Mason.

"As I said earlier in the week, hopefully they're going to get their diplomas in the mail this year," head coach Thad Matta said. "I'm very proud of the fact that we've got four seniors on this team and all four of them have graduated. That's very gratifying and exciting to me."

Lighty said he had been trying to figure out a way that they could do both.

"I asked if we could go down there since we're in Cleveland and walk and then come back up but I didn't know the game was at (5:15 p.m.)," he said. "Commencement is at two (p.m.). I thought it was earlier than that. I'd rather be here."

However, Lighty said he still plans to walk and receive his diploma this spring. No word on if Diebler, Lauderdale and Nikola Kecman will follow suit. Senior walk-on Eddie Days will graduate this spring as well.

Buckeye Sports Top Stories