Sullinger Leads Bucks Past UNF

The Ohio State basketball team (4-0) survived a slow start and rode sophomore big man Jared Sullinger's 27 points and 13 rebounds to an 85-50 win over North Florida. Go inside for the complete game story from this evening's Buckeye win at Value City Arena.

Jared Sullinger came off the floor during a media timeout roughly 10 minutes into the game. Yet to have scored a point, North Florida head coach Matthew Driscoll was feeling good about his team's containment of perhaps the best big man in college basketball.

Thad Matta, however, had seen enough.

"Coach Matta just told me to get the ball because when I get the ball good things happen," Sullinger said. "That's exactly what came out of his mouth and from there I kind of just tried to dominate the paint."

The message was well received, as Sullinger put an extra emphasis on being aggressive in the paint before finishing the game with 27 points and 13 rebounds. The sophomore's second-consecutive double-double paced the No. 3 Buckeyes to an 85-50 win over North Florida Tuesday night in Value City Arena.

"Honestly, it is kind of selfish of me, but at the same time it is something Coach Matta wants to see," Sullinger said. "(He wants to see me) take over a basketball game."

Though Sullinger got off to a slow start, senior William Buford kept Ohio State on top for most of the first 10 minutes as he scored eight of the team's first 15 points before finishing the game with 13 for the Buckeyes (4-0).

Deshaun Thomas added 16 points – who got off to a quick start by burying his first attempt from beyond the arc – and Lenzelle Smith Jr. and Aaron Craft combined for eight assists and six steals.

But it was a sloppy first few minutes for Ohio State, who missed all three shot attempts in its first possession and misfired on the game's first four free throw attempts. It was an indication the team could struggle, but Sullinger helped the Buckeyes get out of its rut in the final 10 minutes of the first half.

"We just didn't have the juice tonight," Thomas said. "I think we played average. Teams are going to come out and give us our best and we need to remember that. Though we ended up picking it up in the second half, we can't take anything for granted. We need to have our mind right that this is a game and this is what we're here for."

Ohio State's lead with roughly 6½ minutes remaining in the first half was only seven, but a 9-2 run sparked by Thomas and Sullinger helped the Buckeyes find a little breathing room.

Sullinger, who helped force a North Florida 5-second violation, and Thomas combined for seven of the nine points during the run, but the most exciting play that helped the Buckeyes gain momentum was a one-handed slam on the baseline from Smith after coming up with a steal.

"I am feeling good about it," Smith said of his dunk. "I am feeling better about things we did successfully as a team offensively. We started off slow, but we came out and things started working for us."

The Buckeyes built a 19-point lead at the half and Ohio State came out strong in the final 20 minutes for the third consecutive game by scoring 15 of the first 17 points. Ohio State was efficient drawing fouls, as the team spent the final 15 minutes of the game in the bonus.

Matta used it as an opportunity to get some time for his bench, but after the Ospreys (1-4) made a little run in the second half the head coach reinserted his starting lineup. The run stopped and the bench players returned to the floor to finish the game.

Ohio State finished just 4-of-17 from beyond the arc, but Matta feels as if the identity of this young squad could be to force transition buckets off turnovers to set up scoring opportunities in the paint.

Ohio State found success doing that, outscoring North Florida 44-20 in the paint while turning 23 of the opposition's turnovers into 25 points. However, the Buckeyes were only 25-of-40 from the free throw line.

"Coach always says that we can get good shots when we get it inside," said Thomas, made 1-of-4 shots from long range. "When we throw it at Sully and myself the percentages are up. It was one of our goals. We are trying to be a great three-point shooting team but inside is working really well right now.

"But we have to knock down the free ones," Thomas continued, commenting on the team's struggles from the charity stripe. "We just need to make sure we take advantage of the free points when we draw fouls."

Ohio State finished the Global Sports Shootout this year with four-consecutive victories. The Buckeyes, who have now won 26-straight games at home, will host VMI Wednesday evening at Value City Arena at 7:00 p.m.

Follow Me on Twitter and find us on Facebook.

Buckeye Sports Top Stories