Texas-Pan American-Ohio St. Preview
Jared Sullinger led Ohio State to a convincing victory over a formidable opponent this week, but the Buckeyes must make do without their sophomore star against a less threatening foe.
They’re hoping he won’t be out any longer than that.
Sullinger will be sidelined due to back spasms as No. 2 Ohio State tries to get coach Thad Matta his 300th career win Saturday against Texas-Pan American.
While he was putting in 21 points and grabbing eight rebounds, Sullinger also had back problems during Tuesday’s 85-63 rout of No. 3 Duke in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
The team said he’ll sit out Saturday and be re-evaluated next week.
Sullinger likely passed up the opportunity to be among the top picks in the 2011 NBA draft, and the Buckeyes (7-0) are benefiting from his decision to return to school. He ranks third in the Big Ten in scoring (19.1 points per game) and second in rebounding (10.3 rpg).
“It all started with Jared inside,” sophomore Aaron Craft said Tuesday after picking up eight assists for a third straight game. “That just opens everything else up.”
The Buckeyes’ supporting cast should be able to step up this weekend, but they might need Sullinger back when they play on the road for the first time next Saturday against No. 15 Kansas following a break for finals.
With a team that has 10 freshmen and sophomores, Ohio State has enjoyed this eight-game stretch in Columbus to begin this season, the longest since its 1909-10 team opened with 10 straight home contests.
The Buckeyes shot 59.3 percent Tuesday during their 29th consecutive victory at Value City Arena. With a win Saturday, the Buckeyes would match a 30-game streak from Feb. 18, 1990-Feb. 8, 1992, as the second-longest in school history.
Sullinger gets many of the headlines, but William Buford has been just as key to Ohio State’s early success. The team’s lone senior has averaged 22.7 points over his last three games, hitting 8 of 9 from 3-point range.
“What can I say,” Sullinger said. “This basketball team is something special.”
Buford could take the reins against Texas Pan-American (2-6), which has dropped 18 consecutive road games - all to unranked opponents. The Broncs suffered their most lopsided defeat of the season Monday, falling 92-60 at Texas-Arlington.
They played that game without leading scorer Brandon Provost, who was reportedly suffering from an illness. The junior guard, averaging 15.3 points, is expected to return Saturday.
Ruben Cabrera and Aaron Urbanus had season highs of 14 points in his absence, but senior guard Jared Maree - averaging 13.6 points - was held to a season-low three on 1-of-10 shooting.
Texas Pan-American has dropped its past six games against ranked opponents by an average of 30.7 points and is set to face the No. 2 team in the country for the third time in seven seasons.
Both of the previous two losses came against Texas, 82-54 on Nov. 29, 2005, and 104-42 on Dec. 15, 2009.