Sullinger struggles in Buckeyes’ loss to Kansas
Jared Sullinger watched the final seconds tick off, pulled his
jersey over his head and half stumbled toward the sideline.
The dream of a national championship, the reason he returned to
Ohio State, was out of reach and it was hard for the big fella to
Dominant early, Sullinger struggled in the second half against
Kansas’ long front line, hitting 5 of 19 shots in the Buckeyes’
64-62 loss in the Final Four Saturday night.
”Right now, I’m kind of speechless with the situation that just
went about,” Sullinger said with tears filling his eyes.
Sullinger didn’t play when Kansas beat Ohio State 78-67 on Dec.
10 because of back spasms.
With the hefty power forward back in the lineup, the Buckeyes
were supposed to have the upper hand inside.
Instead, Jayhawks center Jeff Withey harassed Sullinger
throughout the second half as Kansas rallied from a 13-point
deficit to earn a spot in Monday night’s national title game
against top-seeded Kentucky.
Sullinger, who finished with 13 points and 11 rebounds, now has
to decide if he wants to come back to the Buckeyes again or head to
”Honestly, I don’t know,” Sullinger said of his plans. ”It’s
something I’ll take up with Coach and talk over with my family. I
really don’t know what the decision will be yet.”
Either way, this wasn’t the way he hoped the season would
Sullinger was expected to bolt from Ohio State after being
selected first-team All-America as a freshman. Big, agile and with
good hands, he was projected as an NBA lottery pick, so the
assumption was that he was gone.
Sullinger surprised nearly everyone by deciding to return,
saying he wanted a shot at a national title after the Buckeyes were
bounced early from the NCAA tournament as the top overall seed last
Sullinger did his part in putting the Buckeyes (31-8) in
position, earning All-America honors for the second straight season
while leading them into the Final Four.
He had been dominant at times in the NCAA tournament and was
good early against the Jayhawks, using his big backside to create
space down low. With Sullinger leading the way, the Buckeyes
bullied fellow No. 2 seed Kansas inside early, building a 26-13
lead that was still nine points by halftime.
Things quickly changed in the second half.
With Thomas Robinson asserting himself more offensively and
Sullinger struggling against Withey’s reach, Kansas (32-6) stormed
back, using a 13-4 run to tie the game at 49-all.
Sullinger tried to push back, but had a hard time finding any
room to maneuver inside. He had three shots blocked by Withey in
about a minute and had to alter several others around and over the
7-footer’s long arms.
”He was just playing hard, seemed like he stepped up his
defensive intensity,” Sullinger said of Withey, who had five of
his seven blocked shots in the second half. ”We had a chance to
control the game, but we didn’t.”
Things got even tougher for Sullinger when teammate Deshaun
Thomas went out with his fourth foul.
Ohio State’s game plan for attacking Kansas’ length inside
revolved around Thomas.
The Buckeyes’ leading scorer in the NCAA tournament, he can
score in a variety of ways and is a good shooter from the
When he was in the game, the Jayhawks weren’t able to collapse
on and help on Sullinger.
Once Thomas went out, Kansas was able to surround Ohio State’s
best player, surprising him with double teams that he couldn’t seem
”When Deshaun wasn’t in there, they were able to sit guys on
him,” Ohio State coach Thad Matta said. ”We needed a stretcher
out there at that position. That just enabled them. It forced our
hand a little bit.”
The Buckeyes still had a shot, but they couldn’t get the shots
Sullinger had two points over the final 6 minutes and Thomas
wasn’t much help after he returned, scoring nine points on 3-of-14
So instead of moving on to play in the national championship
game, Sullinger was left to shuffle off the court and wonder what
might have been in his final game at Ohio State.
”Me shooting 5 for 19, that’s not a normal shooting day for me,
but sometimes it happens, the ball rolls that way,” Sullinger
said. ”We still had a chance to win this game, we just didn’t