Michigan State men’s basketball coach Tom Izzo pitied Ohio State Jared Sullinger after Saturday’s game.
After helping guide MSU to a 58-48 win against the Buckeyes, Izzo made an obvious statement, saying that Sullinger faces an increased scoring burden when his Buckeye teammates, like senior guard William Buford and sophomore forward Deshaun Thomas, who shot a combined 4-of-24 from the field, struggle to score.
“(Sullinger) is so hard to guard and I just thought today … (Buford) had not a very good game and Thomas didn’t have that kind of game,” Izzo said. “Then everything falls on poor Sullinger.”
Everything didn’t fall on “poor Sullinger,” though — he fell apart on himself, and grasped at the limbs of the opposition while he fell.
Sullinger bundled 17 points and 16 rebounds with 10 turnovers in OSU’s loss to MSU at the Schottenstein Center. He was 5-of-15 shooting from the field, and was, at times, visibly disturbed by Saturday’s proceedings.
When he wasn’t complaining to the referees, OSU’s sophomore forward appeared to jaw with Spartans’ senior forward Draymond Green throughout the game, emerging after some of the not-so-friendly conversations grinning and looking to the crowd for encouragement.
In the second half, Sullinger hauled Green to the floor, grabbing the MSU player’s leg after falling. It should be noted that no foul was called on either player after the incident, and the two forwards shook hands at midcourt during the next stoppage in play. Make no mistake — the act of tripping Green was deliberate. It was a result of Sullinger losing his cool and one of them could have sustained an injury as a result.
After the game, OSU coach Thad Matta said he wasn’t sure if Sullinger’s frustration on Saturday equaled previous bouts of in-game discontent, adding that the big man was a positive force in team huddles throughout the contest.
“I’m not sure I saw frustration like I’ve seen him have before,” Matta said. “I thought he did a pretty good job of playing through all the things.”
That’s a scary thought because it certainly appeared that Sullinger had blown a fuse.
Sullinger is a fantastic player, but the focus didn’t appear to be there at times on Saturday. OSU can’t afford to have him fly off the handle like that because one more loss could put the Buckeyes out of the running for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Izzo is right. Sullinger clearly makes the Buckeyes go. That’s why the team needs him to keep his cool in the final six games of the regular season, as well as the Big Ten Tournament in Indianapolis.
Sully, just keep your hands to yourself and let’s get on with it.