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Sullinger benched, but still a factor in OSU’s win over UTPA

Cody Cousino / Photo editor

 

Sophomore forward Jared Sullinger had to sit out for Ohio State’s 64-35 win over Texas-Pan American Saturday, but he did his best to have an impact. 

 

After Sullinger reported having back spasms during and after the Buckeye’s win over Duke on Nov. 29, coach Thad Matta made the decision to start junior Evan Ravenel in his place for what would become Matta’s 300th career victory.

 

“Today was a very precautionary measure,” Matta said. “He’s got an aggravated disc. What happens there is the muscle tightens around the area, and unfortunately I probably know a little too much about this stuff.”

 

Matta, who has dealt with his own back problems, faced similar issues last year when then-junior William Buford sat for a game with back spasms and before that with former Buckeye Evan Turner missing a month due to a back injury.

 

Matta said he doesn’t expect the injury to keep Sullinger off the court next Saturday when the team travels to play Kansas. And sophomore Deshaun Thomas agreed, saying Sullinger is “fine.”

 

“He looks fine,” Thomas said. “He’s all right.”

 

With Ravenel starting in his place, Sullinger seemed discontent to remain a mere spectator. When the game tipped off he was stationed on the bench between freshmen centers Trey McDonald and Amir Williams, leaning over to the two pointing out key plays. 

 

The combination of Ravenel and Williams proved a sufficient replacement for Sullinger, with the duo earning a total of 16 points and 10 rebounds.

 

Ravenel said he wasn’t informed he would be starting until Saturday morning, but that he tried not to compare himself to the team’s leading scorer.

 

“I had no idea that Sully was not going to play…I know I’m not Jared Sullinger. Jared and I are two different players. Jared’s very skilled, but we’re different players with two different mindsets.”

 

 

For the first 10 minutes of the game Sullinger lurked on the outer edge of the team’s huddles during timeouts. But with 7:58 left in the half it was Sullinger pacing in front of his teammates during a timeout, getting the team fired up.

 

Standing during nearly every shot attempt, yelling out when the team was on defense and burying his face after missed 3-point shots were all signs that Sullinger was not best suited for life on the bench.

 

Shortly after calling him the “biggest asset in the country,” Ravenel described Sullinger’s mindset about spending time on the bench.

 

“Jared is a tough read as a person,” Ravenel said. “He’ll smile, he’ll giggle, he’ll do his thing, but I’m sure as a basketball player, as the competitor that he is, he really wanted to be out there with his team.

 

“He was with us, he was on the bench sitting there cheering us on, smiling. But he wanted to be out there a lot.”

 

Matta said he intended to check Sullinger’s status around Wednesday, but that he was confident he would be ready for the game against Kansas. 

 

The team will need the big man’s defensive contributions as they travel to take on No. 15-ranked Kansas on Dec. 10. Tip off is set for 3:15 p.m. and the game will be aired on ESPN.

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