COLUMBUS, Ohio - The Buckeyes wasted little time in getting Jared Sullinger back into the lineup after he was cleared on Wednesday morning to go and the big man played for 25 minutes and had 12 points and ten rebounds in a winning effort for the Buckeyes as they took care of South Carolina-Upstate 82-58.
DeShaun Thomas had 23 points on 10-15 shooting and William Buford had 14 points. Sam Thompson came off of the bench and gave the Buckeyes a much needed spark, especially on the defensive side of things with eight points in 21 minutes of play.
Even though Sullinger put up his fifth double-double of the season he was not satisfied with his game and shot 3-8 from the field which is a far cry from his season average.
"I played terrible tonight," Sullinger joked. "I was tired, taking two weeks off is a killer."
Evan Ravenel got the start in Sullinger's place on Wednesday night, a decision that Jared was all in favor of due to the work that the Boston College transfer put in with his absence. At the 14:37 mark of the first half it was time for what every Buckeye fan was hoping for, the return of Sullinger.
"I thought he did a pretty decent job," Ohio State head coach Thad Matta said of Sullinger. "He hadn't played since the Duke game. To get him out there and get him moving, he knew he was going to be rusty and he knew that he would be a little bit winded. But I think now I hope that gives him some confidence to get back there and go to work."
South Carolina-Upstate played very tough for most of the first half and held the lead as late as late as the 5:30 mark of the first half and had it tied with three minutes to go in the half. But the Buckeyes would go on a 11-2 run to close out the half and take a nine point lead into the halftime locker room.
Thompson's entrance to the game in the first half was the earliest he has been called off of the bench for the Buckeyes and it was his defensive presence that the Buckeyes were looking for.
"When he called my name I just wanted to get in there and do what he was asking me to do," Thompson said. "(Torrey Craig) I think at that point had scored eight straight points so I just wanted to get in there and make it difficult for him and use my length and athleticism."
Thomas was consistent throughout the game and had 11 points in the first half and 12 in the second half and was just a point off of his career high. Thomas has scored in double figures in all but one game this season and has averaged 13.6 ppg. through the early part of the season.
"I played really well," Thomas said. "It's a learning process and I am just getting better as a player and I am feeling more comfortable out there picking the spots and knocking down shots. Playing with Jared and Will, playing off them, that is a good experience."
The Spartans are still in the transition of getting used to playing in Division I but have had some success in the early season and while you don't ever want to have a moral victory, played Dayton close and ultimately ended up losing by four points.
"The transition to Division I basketball is awful difficult," USC-Upstate head coach Eddie Payne said. "You come from Division II, winning games and winning championships and going to the national tournament to the bottom of the pile."
But USC-Upstate will be battle tested to go into the Atlantic Sun season after facing the nation's No. 2 team and hopes that Wednesday night's experience will go a long way to make a deep run in league play.
"I am grateful to Thad and (Ohio State) for playing us and I think it helped us," Payne said. "Hopefully we played them good enough to help them."
Matta knew that the game would not be a walkover and warned his team going into the game that reputation alone wouldn't win the game.
"I think we beat a very, very good basketball team today," Matta said. "When they chew up the clock a little bit and move the ball around and weren't shooting really quick it lowered the possessions. It felt like in the first half that we were good but we didn't quite have the intensity that we needed."
The Buckeyes bounced back from the field after shooting 38.7-percent from the field against Kansas in the first loss of the year but even without Sullinger in the lineup (including the Texas-Pan American game) the Bucks had shot an ice cold 39.2-percent from the field.
"I threatened them in a positive tone that we needed to shoot better than 50-percent tonight," Matta said. "I think they were relieved that we did."
Ohio State goes on the road on Saturday and travels to Columbia (S.C.) to take on the University of South Carolina in a nationally televised game at 2 p.m. (EST).