Columbus Northland's Jared Sullinger, an Ohio State commit who is the No. 2 player and No. 1 center in the class, spent all but three minutes of the first half on the bench in foul trouble. As a result, his battle with Jeremy Tyler, a Louisville pledge who falls at No. 7 overall and No. 3 at the 2010 center rankings, wasn't materializing.
But as the two went head to head in the second half, Sullinger used the marquee matchup to show why he has such a lofty ranking. His 19 second-half points gave him 23 in the game and led Northland to a 56-39 win at the Flyin' to the Hoop Classic at Trent Arena in Kettering, Ohio.
"The challenge I took was playing against a shot blocker," Sullinger said afterward. "I hardly play against a shot blocker in my conference games. I had to adjust my play to his game and he had to adjust his to mine. Like I said, we came out with a ‘W,' so that's all that matters to me right now."
Sullinger was at his best as he helped Northland pull away. With the Vikings ahead 29-27 in the third quarter, Sullinger made a reverse layup by Tyler to start a 12-5 run that ended the quarter. The 6-7 Sullinger was instrumental, making a layup, finding Dimonde Hale with a beautiful outlet pass that led to an easy layup and putting an exclamation point on things with an alley-oop slam that made it 39-29.
He took over the fourth quarter, adding another 11 points while Tyler was scoreless before fouling out with 2:18 to go.
Sullinger's performance put to bed for the packed house in attendance any concerns about his first half.
His father, Northland head coach Satch Sullinger, took responsibility for the early foul trouble.
"I felt like the officials were going to let them play and give them a little taste of the next level was like," Satch said. "Everybody was coming to see them two, and they called some fouls that I felt were questionable and it kind of changed the flavor of the game.
"I was wrong, so it was all on me."
The 6-9 Tyler took advantage for some stretches of the first half. After Northland was staked to an 8-0 early lead before Sullinger's foul troubles, Tyler helped pull his undermanned squad back into the game with a handful of thunderous dunks.
Working mostly against Ricky Bennett and Javon Cornley, Tyler had 12 first-half points for a Cavers team that was down 22-17 at the break. They came on dunks of all shapes and sizes, including a few alley-oops and some others in which he spun and picked his way through traffic.
"My first option was to go down (low)," said Tyler, who completed a double-double with 11 rebounds while adding a pair of blocks. "I wanted to get the feel of the game and see how everything was going, and then I saw they weren't as strong as maybe I thought they were inside, so I went inside."
"That was kind of pitiful on us," Jared Sullinger said of allowing the dunks.
Tyler had 10 points while Sullinger had eight in the third quarter before Sullinger's late explosion showcased his full game.
"He's a baller, man," Satch said. "It was about going straight to Jeremy and not finessing with him and doing some power (stuff), and we got him in foul trouble. It was by design that he went straight at him.
"The difference between Jared and most players is he is not one type of scorer. He's multifaceted. He can score in a lot of different ways, so he's a hard guard."
"I was just going up (and) stopped trying to shy away from contact," Jared said of his second half. "Just go through the shot block. If he blocks my shot, he blocks my shot. Just keep going at him."
The two said they had engaged in some trash talking before the game and were each complementary of each other after the game.
"I was looking forward for the matchup for some competition," Tyler said. "Sullinger is a very good player. He's got a bright future and everything. I'm going to call him later tonight and tell him good game and everything."
"He's a great player," Sullinger said. "I can't say nothing (bad) about his game. He's a great player. He's a shot blocker."
The game almost never took place. Northland had looked as though it was going to cancel because of a Columbus schools' rule that prevents weekend athletic play after a Friday snow day, but the rule was repealed for the weekend to allow the games to go on.
San Diego had its own troubles, as head coach Kenny Roy and three players were suspended from being with the team because of alleged rules violations relating to the transfers of the players into the program during the offseason.
The Cavers also had to fly in after a conference game last night in California and did not arrive in Ohio until 3:30 p.m., three hours before tip.