Jared Sullinger might grab most of the headlines and Deshaun Thomas might score most of the points for the No. 4 Ohio State men’s basketball team, but in OSU’s 81-41 defeat of UNC Wilmington on Saturday, another Buckeye freshman found his time to shine.
After playing a combined 16 minutes in the first two games of the season, and just one minute in the Buckeyes’ win over Florida, OSU guard Jordan Sibert found his shooting touch on Saturday, as he connected on three 3-point shot attempts in the first half and helped push the Buckeyes out to a 48-16 first-half lead.
“After I made my first shot, my teammates, they had confidence in me,” Sibert said. “I felt a good rhythm so my teammates looked for me and I was able to knock down the shots and I have to give my teammates all the credit.”
Playing a season-high 19 minutes, Sibert finished the game with 11 points and five rebounds, including a leaping offensive rebound in the second half that eventually led to a basket for Thomas. Despite Sibert’s energetic effort, OSU coach Thad Matta tempered his praise for the reserve guard who committed three turnovers.
“I asked him when we took him out there in the first half, I said, ‘How many shots have you made?’ And he said ‘three.’ I said, ‘How many bad passes have you had?’ And he said ‘three,’ and I said, ‘We got to clean that up,'” Matta said.
The freshman from Cincinnati got the job done on the defensive end of the floor, recording his first steal of the season. Sibert said the coaching staff considers him capable of becoming a strong defender, as his lanky 6-foot-4-inch frame allows him to guard multiple positions on the perimeter.
“My coaches keep encouraging me to stay in the passing lane, keep playing help defense, and just keep being aggressive,” Sibert said.
Sibert said his breakout game was a result of his coaches’ advice to seize the opportunities in front of him.
“My coaches always tell me, you know, ‘You’re going to get your time, and when you get it, just take advantage of it,'” Sibert said. “My teammates helped me feel like it was my time and those shots, I just took my time and took advantage of it.”
Matta said that games when his reserve players can play more minutes are crucial to developing inexperienced players like Sibert.
“Getting game experience is huge for him, and I was pleased to see the ball go in for him,” Matta said. “We can continue to build him on that.”