COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Jared Sullinger missed No. 2 Ohio State's shootaround earlier Thursday while he said goodbye to one of his favorite uncles at a funeral home.
He got in his shooting later.
Sullinger set an Ohio State freshman record with 40 points, leading the Buckeyes back from a nine-point second-half deficit to beat IUPUI 75-64.
"I got to see my uncle for the last time," Sullinger said of the viewing for Harold Sullinger. "It was really tough. This game really does go to him."
The 6-foot-9 Columbus native hit 12 of 17 shots from the field and 16 of 23 free throws -- both of which were also records -- and had 13 rebounds as the Buckeyes (7-0) escaped on a night when the pesky Jaguars (4-6) shot 51 percent from the field and constantly applied pressure.
The Buckeyes finished the game on a 34-14 run -- with Sullinger scoring 22 points.
"I thought our post guys could have a big night," Ohio State coach Thad Matta said. "I didn't know it would be this big."
During a timeout early in the second half, Matta told Sullinger -- last year's Naismith Award winner as the top prep player in the country -- to start asking for the ball. So he did.
"Normally I don't do that because that shows signs of selfishness and that's not me," Sullinger said. "But he's the head coach and you have to listen to him."
It was the 23rd 40-point game ever by a Buckeye, and the first since Dennis Hopson scored 41 in 1986 against Dayton. It was only the fourth time an Ohio State player has scored 40 points or more in a game in the last 45 years.
IUPUI coach Ron Hunter said his game plan was to shut down Ohio State on the perimeter and force the Buckeyes' big men to do the job inside.
"We just ran into a wall," Hunter said.
William Buford added 14 points and Jon Diebler 13 for the Buckeyes, who looked rusty at times after a nine-day layoff.
Alex Young had 20 points, Leroy Nobles 16 and Donovan Gibbs 12 for the Jaguars.
Despite Sullinger's gaudy numbers, it was anything but easy for the Buckeyes.
The Jaguars hit their first five shots of the second half and went on to build a 50-41 lead at 12:43 on a 3-pointer by John Ashworth late in the shot clock. There was an uneasy rumble in the crowd as Ohio State brought the ball down the court.
The Buckeyes, who missed nine of their first 11 shots in the half, then found the range.
Diebler made a 3 from the left wing and after a miss at the other end, Sullinger took a feed from Buford for a vicious dunk to cut it to 50-46. Again IUPUI misfired and this time Buford drove through traffic and hit a scoop shot to cut the gap to two. Sullinger hit two more foul shots and then scored inside to complete the 11-0 run and put the Buckeyes in front 52-50 with 8:37 left -- their first lead in more than 10 minutes.
The Jaguars pulled even at 54 on a jumper by Gibbs before Diebler hit a 3 from the left wing and then fed Sullinger for a jam and a 59-54 lead. They pulled away from there.
"It helps when you have that guy going for 40 because it opens it up on the outside," Diebler said.
During one span, the Buckeyes outscored the Jaguars 24-4 -- with Sullinger scoring 14 and Diebler hitting two 3s.
"I was surprised they didn't double him," Buford said. "He was hot so we just got him the ball and they couldn't stop him."
The previous freshman scoring record at Ohio State was held by Michael Redd, who had 30 points against Southern California on Dec. 20, 1997.
Sullinger credited his uncle -- whom he said yelled at him during a recent game when he only had three rebounds -- for inspiring him. He said respect for his teammates' outside shooting left him wide open.
"It's pretty nice when you have outside shooters," he said, mentioning several of his teammates by name. "It's obvious you can't double-team the post. It was easy for me to score inside."
Written By Rana G on Thursday, December 9, 2010 | 8:11 PM
Posted by Rana G at 8:11 PM