• 66°

Final Four: Ohio State star Sullinger struggled in semifinals

Associated Press
NEW ORLEANS — 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 take.
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 the NBA.
“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 end.
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 year.
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 perimeter.
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 to escape.
“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 to fall.
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 shooting.
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 execute.”

Comments

Comments closed.

Coronavirus

Three new COVID-19 deaths, positives remain below triple digits

BREAKING NEWS

Gov. Cooper announces end to curfew, changes to restrictions affecting bars, high school sports

Crime

Blotter: Two charged after call about package

Crime

Salisbury Police investigating two shootings

Crime

Chase involving Kernersville man ends in woods behind Carson High School

News Main

North Rowan girls end season with playoff loss to Murphy

Education

Rowan-Salisbury EC department plunges in place after raising $1,300 for Special Olympics

Nation/World

Tiger Woods injured in car crash, has surgery on legs

Local

Local stakeholders set goals, direction to tackle city’s housing issues

Education

RSS board talks future of Henderson Independent School

Coronavirus

One new COVID-19 death, 23 new positives reported Tuesday

Local

Concord to create fallen officer memorial featuring Rowan native Shuping

Crime

20-year-old man faces rape charges

Crime

Blotter: Man charged after shooting gun during argument

Local

UPDATE: Missing Salisbury man found

Education

RSS board votes to use upset bid process on Faith property

Local

Committee to soon accept artist applications for ‘Paint the Pavement’ project

BREAKING NEWS

RSS board votes to send elementary students to in-person classes four days per week

Coronavirus

County to administer nearly 1,700 vaccines this week

News

Political Notebook: Rep. Howard named ‘hospitality champion’ by North Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association

Crime

Blotter: Gunshot fired into home on North Oakhurst Drive

Local

Teenager reported missing in Salisbury

Local

‘Everybody needs an Aunt Libby:’ Family celebrates 100th birthday of Rockwell doctor Elizabeth Lombard

Ask Us

Ask Us: Why is Rowan EMS no longer transporting some patients outside of county?