Without Sullinger, Bucks Blast UTPA

The No. 2 Ohio State basketball team didn't have star big man Jared Sullinger for its matchup against Texas-Pan American Saturday, but the Buckeyes still cruised to the big victory. Get the game recap and the latest on Sullinger's injury inside.

With questions looming about the severity of Jared Sullinger's back ailment, the No. 2 Ohio State basketball team preferred not to leave any additional uncertainty without its standout big man in the lineup against Texas Pan-American Saturday.

Inserted in the starting five in place of Sullinger, Evan Ravenel scored a career-high 11 points and grabbed seven rebounds while leading the Buckeyes to a 64-35 win over the Broncos in Value City Arena.

"I look at it as an unfortunate opportunity," said Ravenel, who made his first career start even dating back to his time at Boston College. "It was unfortunate that Jared couldn't play with us for this win, but it was definitely an opportunity for me to provide extra minutes (and help us) to win."

Sullinger, who suffered from back spasms after Ohio State's blowout win over No. 3 Duke Tuesday night, will now have a week to rest before facing No. 15 Kansas in Lawrence Dec. 10.

"Choosing to not play Jared today was a very precautionary measure," Ohio State head coach Thad Matta said. "He has an aggravated disk, and what happens is the muscle tightens around that area. Things need to calm down and we will take a look at him Monday to get a sense of how he's doing, but he's feeling better and the muscle is relaxing every day."

Deshaun Thomas, another inside presence for the Buckeyes, said the team's game wasn't altered much without Sullinger in the lineup. Scoring 11 points, Thomas helped Ohio State secure 31-14 halftime lead despite a slow offensive start.

The Buckeyes started the game converting on only 3-of-11 shot attempts to start the game but didn't allow the Broncos to convert on a field goal until Ruben Cabrera knocked down a 3-point attempt nearly 10 minutes into the game.

"One of the key things we challenged our guys to this game was defensively to test where their minds were," said Matta, who enjoyed career win No. 300. "We came out with great energy on the defensive end, but for some reason we weren't able to put the ball in the basket when we wanted to.

"We missed three point-blank lay-ups, and it catapulted itself into poor game shooting. However, in the end, we were able to contribute as a team and get a great win."

The Broncos sacrificed offensive rebounds in order to stop Ohio State (8-0) from getting easy buckets in transition, but the Buckeyes lived up to Matta's defensive challenge by forcing 21 UTPA turnovers, scoring 32 points off those miscues.

Gaining a comfortable lead after the first 20 minutes, Matta used the game as an opportunity to help his bench get some time. Freshman big man Amir Williams played 15 minutes in the contest, providing five points and three rebounds in his first extended playing time of the year.

"I think he came along pretty well," Ravenel said of Williams, who also had a block and a steal. "Amir's a heck of a shot blocker and shot changer. I think every time he does get to play you see that. Offensively, he's getting better every day."

Senior guard William Buford was held to only two points on 1-of-7 shooting from the floor and sophomore guard Aaron Craft had six points, three assists and a steal in 24 minutes of action.

The big question remains whether Sullinger will be ready to play against the Jayhawks next Saturday. It is a decision, Matta said, that will be determined after further evaluation next week.

Sullinger, who averaged over 19 points and 10 rebounds on the season, had an MRI on Friday afternoon. Matta said things look positive for the sophomore's recovery despite reports last evening that it could be an injury that keeps Sullinger out for over a month.

"I think once we get past this, it will be over," Matta said of Sullinger's injury. "Therapy and stretching can strengthen that area over time. I made the decision not to play him today this past Wednesday. I wanted to give him time to rest knowing we would have another week in between games. There is a decent chance he can play against Kansas, so we'll reevaluate him and see how he is doing."

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