Midway through the 2nd half, it looked like the story of the night might be that IUPUI had come to Columbus and pulled off a stunner. That story would never be written, however as Jared Sullinger set an OSU freshman record pouring in 40 points on the night, including 26 in the 2nd half powering a 34-14 closing run by the Buckeyes en route to a 75-64 victory.
The first 28 minutes were tough on the eyes as the Buckeyes showed little intensity at the defensive end while struggling to move the ball and create open looks against IUPUI's zone defense. Tied 35-35 at the break afer surrendering 52% shooting from the Jaguars, IUPUI hit their first five shots of the 2nd half before a 9-2 run pushed their lead to 50-41 with 12:46 to play.
Then, without warning, the Buckeyes decided to kick up the intensity. Jon Diebler opened the 34-14 spree with a triple from the left wing and after a Jaguar miss, a Buckeye fastbreak culminated in a dunk from Sulinger off a sweet dish in transition from Will Buford cutting the deficit to 50-46 at the 11:43 mark. IUPUI head coach Ron Hunter called a timeout to try and stem the tide but Buford would hit a nifty layup in traffic before Sullinger completely took over the game. The big man would score 12 of the next 15 Buckeye points hitting 4/4 from the floor and 4/6 from the line helping OSU take a 63-54 lead with 3:55 to play.
After the Jags answered a Lighty layup with a pair of free throws from Leroy Nobles and a triple from Alex Young cutting the lead to 65-59 with 3:08 remaining, Sullinger went back to work scoring eight of OSU's final 10 points capping a 10-2 run to finish the game. IUPUI simply had no answer for Sullinger's girth in the paint as evidenced by Christian Siakam fouling out in 13 minutes while trying to slow down the Buckeye freshman.
Sullinger's record setting performance saw him hit 12/17 shots from the field and 16/23 from the stripe in addition to grabbing 13 boards. Buford added 14 points and seven rips while Jon Diebler chipped in 13 points. Freshman Aaron Craft was held scoreless but dropped eight dimes and grabbed five boards in 35 minutes of action. He also played some insane on-ball defense during the decisive run keeping IUPUI from being able to consistently start their offense.
Interestingly, Thad Matta didn't go to his bench in the 2nd half until less than minute remained meaning Dallas Lauderdale played just eight minutes. The move was necessary to try and facilitate some ball movement as the Buckeyes looked completely listless for nearly two thirds of the game not to mention the fact IUPUI played small ball forcing Lauderdale to defend on the perimeter, not something Thad wants to see. Lacking any intensity at the defensive end, the Buckeyes forced just three 1st half tunovers while allowing the Jags to hit 52% from the floor including 5/10 from downtown. At the other end, Ohio State shot a respectable 48% in the opening 20 minutes and committed just four turnovers but there was a decided meh to their play.
Despite the win, Matta was provided plenty of amunition to keep the team focused in practice. David Lighty had a very shaky outing scoring just six points and getting beat on back door passes on three separate occasions. DeShaun Thomas played just nine minutes and again showed his basketball IQ is somewhat lacking at times. As we've seen in previous games, he took some ill-advised shots early in possessions and jacked up a three just seconds after entering the game. Matta also can't be pleased with the defensive effort through the first 28 minutes though IUPUI deserves credit for hitting some tough shots.
Still, a win is a win and it was nice to see the Buckeyes rise to the challenge after falling behind 45-39. With Sullinger bullying his way to easy layups, Ohio State shot 14/26 (54%) in the 2nd half and committed just eight turnovers on the night.
Next up for the 7-0 Buckeyes is a 2pm Sunday afternoon tilt against the Western Carolina Catamounts in St. John Arena.