W. Carolina-Ohio St. Preview
Jared Sullinger has been named the Big Ten freshman of the week three times in four opportunities, an outstanding start that's leaving little doubt he'll be named the conference's freshman of the year down the road.
With a few more efforts like Thursday's, he might have to find room for the Big Ten player of the year trophy as well.
Sullinger became the conference's first freshman in more than 65 years to score 40 points his last time out, a performance Western Carolina hopes he can't replicate Sunday afternoon as it visits second-ranked Ohio State.
One of the nation's top recruits, Sullinger certainly looked the part by totaling 45 points and 24 rebounds in his first two college games.
Sullinger only had 42 points over his next four games, but had the most impressive offensive performance by a freshman in school history Thursday. The Columbus native set a Buckeyes freshman record with 40 points against IUPUI, leading Ohio State (7-0) back from a nine-point second-half deficit to win 75-64.
"He's had a lot thrown at him and I think he's down a tremendous job handling it all," coach Thad Matta said of Sullinger. "... Obviously we just stuck with throwing it down (on the block) to him. I felt like our post guys could have a big night tonight but I didn't know it would be this big."
Michael Redd held the previous Ohio State freshman record with 32 points against Penn State on Feb. 28, 1998. Sullinger became just the second freshman in Big Ten history to score 40, joining Iowa's Dick Ives, who scored 43 against the University of Chicago in 1944.
He's fifth in the conference in scoring (18.1 points per game), second in rebounding (9.9) and first in field-goal percentage (60.5).
Sullinger's follow-up performance will come across the Olentangy River in St. John Arena, where Ohio State played for 42 years prior to moving into Value City Arena in 1998. The Buckeyes have since played four games - all victories - in the venue where they once won 50 consecutive games.
"There's a lot of history there, and to be able to be a part of that history would be great," Sullinger said.
Getting David Lighty more involved might make Ohio State's job easier against Western Carolina (4-7). Lighty had a season-low six points against the Jaguars, but the Buckeyes are 13-0 during the senior's career when he scores at least 17 points.
The Catamounts have been relying heavily on a senior guard as well, but Mike Williams was shut down Friday at Campbell in his team's third straight defeat. Western Carolina's leading scorer coming in at 16.3 points per game, Williams was held to two in a 73-50 loss to the Camels.
Then again, high-scoring efforts from Williams haven't translated to victories. The Catamounts are 0-4 when Williams scores at least 18 points and 4-3 when he has 17 or fewer.
Ohio State and Western Carolina, where Matta spent the 1995-96 season as an assistant coach, have never met.