by David Cassilo / @dcassilo
A day after learning that Kyrie Irving might miss the rest of the season it didn’t take long for another freshman to grab the spotlight he had left. Jared Sullinger terrorized the IUPUI front line for 40 points and 13 rebounds. The 40 points were an Ohio State freshman record.
Without a performance like this, Ohio State might have suffered the biggest upset of the college basketball season. The Buckeyes were tied at 35 at the half and trailed with just over ten minutes left before ultimately winning by 11.
IUPUI, which did not have a starter taller than 6-7, watched Sullinger hit 12 of 17 shots from the field and make 16 of 23 free throw attempts. The Jaguars shot just five free throws the entire game.
Sullinger, who now has four double-doubles in his first seven games, is not used to commanding for the ball, but on Thursday, his head coach told him he had no other choice.
IUPUI held a second half nine-point lead over the Buckeyes, making the Jaguars’ bid for its first-ever win over a top 25 team a realistic goal. Instead, Matta instructed Sullinger to be more aggressive in the paint and take over.
Sullinger, who scored 26 points in the second half, did just that.
“Basically Coach Matta told me to call for it,” Sullinger said. “Normally I don’t do that because that shows signs of selfishness and that’s isn’t me. Him being the head coach, you’ve got to listen to him and that’s what I did.”
Sullinger is now averaging 18.1 ppg and 9.9 rpg, both of which lead the No. 2 Buckeyes. He has made 60.5 percent of his shots from the field, an eye-opening statistic. Ohio State has a long history of talented freshman, and Sullinger is proving he might just be the best of them all.