November 4, 2010
Sullinger already leaving mark
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COLUMBUS, Ohio - The No. 4 Ohio State basketball team has yet to play a game in its upcoming season, but freshman big man Jared Sullinger has already left his mark on the Buckeyes.
Ohio State will play in an exhibition game this Sunday in Value City Arena against Walsh, but Sullinger and the Buckeyes have already had some exposure against an opponent.
The Buckeyes took part in a secret scrimmage against Baylor last Saturday and reports that Sullinger scored 40 points against the Bears - ranked No. 16 in the Associated Press Poll - surfaced.
"No," said Matta when asked if Sullinger had a big day against Baylor, simultaneously sporting a big smile. "We didn't get 40 as a team. We couldn't score."
With Matta clearly joking, the Buckeyes were happy with their performance against Baylor in a scrimmage that consisted of three 20-minute periods and one five-minute period.
Ohio State senior guard Jon Diebler, however, saw Sullinger's performance a little different than the Buckeyes head coach.
"He scored a lot," Diebler said. "There was a span, I want to say it was in the third 20-minute span, where we just kept going inside to Sully and he just kept scoring. That was nice."
During the scrimmage against the Bears, the score wasn't kept. Though reports were out that Sullinger scored 40 points, Diebler couldn't recall his own point total and there wasn't a final overall score.
But Diebler had no problems recalling just how well Sullinger played.
"Jared played extremely well," Diebler said. "Once he established himself down there they really couldn't stop him. Jared is a special player because he is so intelligent as a freshman and he really knows the game of basketball.
"Jared is a guy where he is always going to go to the glass rebounding and that's key for us," he continued. "Rebounding has cost us games at times, especially in the last game in the (Sweet 16 loss to Tennessee) last year."
Despite not playing a minute of basketball for the Buckeyes, Sullinger has already garnered his fair share of preseason hype.
Coming off a senior season at Columbus Northland High School in which he averaged 24.5 points and 12.3 rebounds per game for one of the nation's best basketball teams, Sullinger could prove to be one of the biggest offensive weapons in the low post in Matta's tenure.
Matta has had guys in his frontcourt like Terence Dials, a Big Ten Player of the Year, and 7-footers Greg Oden, Kosta Koufos and B.J. Mullens. Though only standing 6-foot-9, Sullinger could be the farthest advanced player offensively.
"They tried to stop him in the post a lot in the first half but we have a lot of shooters and a lot of drivers," said senior David Lighty of Baylor's defensive plan against Sullinger. "It kind of opened things for us, but then they spread it out a little bit and the post became open for him and (Dallas Lauderdale) as well."
The co-MVP of the 2010 McDonald's All-American game in Value City Arena - a game in which he scored 22 points and added seven rebounds in just 24 minutes of action - Sullinger has been rated by various national college basketball publications as one of the best big men in country this season.
In the scrimmage against Baylor, his teammates are starting to see the flashes of why Sullinger has earned the preseason respect that has him projected as an NBA lottery pick after his freshman season at Ohio State.
"He is a force down there," junior guard William Buford said. "He did really solid that game and we're really proud of him."
Diebler described the evening after the scrimmage as one of the better nights the team has had in preseason practice, but the team realizes there is a lot to work on before this weekend's exhibition against Walsh. Lighty agreed that the scrimmage was nothing but a tool to help them prepare for later in the season.
"We never did that before since I have been here," Lighty said. "It was really beneficial for us to play a big long, athletic team that early. Going against guys of that size will help us later on in the season."
Ari Wasserman is a staff writer for BuckeyeGrove.com. He can be reached at Ari@BuckeyeGrove.com.
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