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Sullinger returns, helps OSU outlast South Carolina-Upstate

Cody Cousino/ Photo editor

Ohio State men’s basketball sophomore forward Jared Sullinger is back.

Sullinger scored 12 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in 25 minutes of play off the bench as the No. 2 Buckeyes defeated South Carolina-Upstate, 82-58. It was Sullinger’s first game action since suffering back spasms during OSU’s Nov. 29 victory against Duke.

Following the victory, Sullinger declared himself “back to health” and 100-percent recovered from the discomfort that caused him to miss the Buckeyes’ last two games. Sullinger, who was cleared after a morning workout, said he wasn’t limited during the game, but added that he was fatigued as a result of missing time.

“I was tired,” he said. “Two weeks off is a killer. I did a lot of work on the treadmill these last few days, but I was still very out of shape tonight.”

OSU coach Thad Matta said he was satisfied with Sullinger’s output.

“(Sullinger) did a decent job for not playing since the Duke game,” Matta said. “He knew he was going to be winded. Hopefully now this gives him confidence to get back out there and go to work.”

Wednesday marked the first time Sullinger has come off the bench in his career. The decision to leave him out of the starting lineup was made earlier in the day after Sullinger asked Matta to start junior forward Evan Ravenel, who had started in Sullinger’s place for the last two games.

“It was my decision (not to start),” Sullinger said. “(Ravenel) has worked so hard these last few weeks and I felt he deserved a shot to start. He’s earned it.”

Despite Sullinger’s return, Upstate had a major upset on its mind early. The Spartans held a four-point lead with less than nine minutes remaining in the first half before the Buckeyes went on a 20-7 run over the final eight minutes of the half to build a nine-point halftime advantage.

Ravenel, who scored the first five points of the game for the Buckeyes, dunked in the closing seconds of the first half to put OSU up, 37-28.

The Buckeyes didn’t look back.

Ravenel finished with nine points in 12 minutes while sophomore forward DeShaun Thomas led OSU with 23 points, one shy of tying his career-high. Thomas has scored double-digit points in nine of OSU’s 10 games this season.

Thomas said that he is starting to hit his stride as an offensive contributor.

“As a player you have got to have a mindset each and every game, have your mind ready to play,” Thomas said. “I think I’m growing off of that.”

Matta agreed with Thomas.

“I think the biggest thing I’ve seen in (Thomas) is just the maturity of his mental approach to games,” Matta said. “…Everyone thinks this game is just about being out there playing but the mental side of things is just as important in my mind. And DeShaun is starting to grasp that.”

Matta said the Buckeyes lacked intensity in the first half, but was happy with the way his team responded and finished the game.

“We beat a very good basketball team tonight,” Matta said.

OSU (9-1) continues non-conference play with a Saturday road game against South Carolina at noon.

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