Thad Matta's 200th win at Ohio State was anything but boring as the Buckeyes got a career high 30 points from Deshaun Thomas and Jared Sullinger went for x-rays on his foot before OSU outlasted South Carolina 74-66 this afternoon in Colonial Life Arena.
Sullinger's injury was the product of an inadvertent kick in the lane and he immediately asked out of the game . He would return shortly thereafter but couldn't go on, finally leaving the arena for x-rays that came back negative. Matta noted after the game Sully suffered a deep bone bruise in his left foot. There's no timetable for his return.
On the court, it was the Deshaun Thomas show.
The sophomore shot 13/16 from the floor including 11/11 from inside the arc and scored 20 in the 2nd half. Leading just 43-41 with 13:45 to play, Thomas led a 23-12 charge scoring 11 of the first 12 points before capping the blitz with a dagger from distance giving the Buckeyes a commanding 66-53 lead with 4:46 to play. His ever evolving midrange game was on full display as he hit from the baseline, the wing and in the paint flahsing a feathery touch and controlled aggression in addition to two triples. The kid is developing right before our eyes and with what he's shown recently, could be emerging as Ohio State's #2 scoring option ahead of Buford.
Speaking of Buford, he shot just 5/14 from the floor but managed 5/5 from the stripe to finish as the only other Buckeye in double figures with 17. He also five boards and five assists against just one turnover, joining Thomas as a 40 minute man. Buford was strong early, going for 10 in the first half and sparked an early 7-0 run giving OSU an 18-11 lead with a triple, a nice look to Thomas for two, and a dunk via a great pass from Jordan Sibert.
Sullinger's injury occurred shortly after the Buford-led spurt and the Gamecocks responded outscoring Ohio State 22-11 for the remainder of the half to take a 33-29 lead into the locker room. Despite already playing games without Sully, the team looked on offense shooting just 4/12 with four turnovers. Evan Ravenel struggled with mental mistakes inside and Thomas had a couple of the turnovers but still scored four of his 10 first half points and assisted on a Ravenel dunk.
The sloppy Buckeyes turned it over nine times in the opening stanza and SC capitalized with 12 points. They also shot 54% from the floor including 57% from beyond the arc (4/7) while OSU hit on 46% of their shots. Matta's crew did own the glass t the tune of 17-8 as Lenzelle Smith pulled down six.
Understanding they'd be without Sullinger the rest of the way as he left the arena to be examined, Ohio State turned up the defense after intermission holding the 'Cocks to 10/24 from the floor (41%) including just 2/8 from three point land. Aaron Craft was right in the middle of things picking up a couple steals and frustrating Bruce Ellington while Amir Williams came off the bench to provide a defensive spark.
The kid who looked overwhelmed earlier in the season picked up four boards and two blocks to go along with six points at the other end. I admittedly didn't think this kid would give OSU much of anything in games that mattered - and he still might not if/when Sully is healthy - but he responded today and looks increasingly comfortable on the floor.
Lenzelle Smith was hurting OSU at the offensive end early but responded big time in the 2nd half with nine points on 2/3 from the floor and 4/4 from the line. The kid flat out did work on the glass with four big offensive caroms, finishing with nine boards overall. He added three assists against three turnovers. As I said when everyone had Sam Thompson fever the other night, don't sleep on Smith. He does the dirty work and can show flashes at the offensive end as a complimentary player. He's not going to electrify you offensively on most nights but he fills some of the intangibles void Lighty left behind. Save for the occassional lapses in shot selection and poor defensive rotations, he's a great compliment to the starting lineup when it's at full strength.
For the game, the Buckeyes shot 51% from the floor and won the glass 33-19 while holding SC to 48% shooting thanks to the improved effort in the final 20 minutes. The 19 points off 15 offensive boards also proved huge as they won the 2nd chance points battle 19-11.
In between trips to the locker room to stop the blood gushing from his slashed eye lid, Malik Cooke led South Carolina with 21 points.
The win improves Ohio State to 10-1 on the season. Next up, the Buckeyes host Lamar at 8:30pm on Tuesday night.