Hoops Notebook: Sully Fooled, Buford Mad, Diebler’s Hand Hurting?
By Brandon Castel
CLEVELAND, Ohio — Jared Sullinger was hungry for his first basket in the NCAA Tournament.
Ohio State’s star freshman had waited patiently while teammate William Buford gobbled up the team’s first seven points Friday in their opening round game against Texas-San Antonio. The Buckeyes actually trailed 9-7 the first time Sullinger got the ball in the paint with less than 15 minutes to play in the first half, but he knew exactly where he was going with it.
As Sullinger made a strong move to the basket, however, Roadrunners’ big man Larry Wilkins buckled to the floor.
“He played me for a fool, at that time,” said Sullinger, who was called for the offensive foul.
“He was pushing me, pushing me, pushing me, so I figured he was going to stay strong like (Colton) Iverson from Minnesota, or (Trevor) Mbakwe.”
Sullinger had faced some tough big men in his first season of collegiate basketball, including Keith Benson of Oakland, Florida’s Vernon Macklin, Xavier Gibson of Florida State and Purdue’s JaJuan Johnson, the Player of the Year in the Big Ten.
After 34 games, he was used to playing rough in the post, and Wilkins caught him by surprise.
“I made that power dribble and he fell, and (I’m thinking) ‘you’re stupid, you’re stupid, you’re stupid,” Sullinger said after the game.
“He caught me. He played a good game. He played a good mind game on me, so I was prepared for that the next couple times down.”
He finished with 11 points, nine rebounds and three steals in 28 minutes and picked up only one more foul the rest of the game.
Getting Buford Mad
Photo by Jim Davidson
One big reason Sullinger didn’t have to carry the load for the No. 1-seed Buckeyes offensively in their opening-round game was the play of junior William Buford. After scoring 18 points in the Big Ten Tournament title game against Penn State, Buford nearly equaled that in the first half of Friday’s game.
He scored the first seven points for Ohio State, and 10 of the first 12, as the Buckeyes got out to a 23-13 lead on Buford’s third three of the game. He finished with 15 points at the half and 18 for the game to go with six rebounds and five assists, but afterward, one of his teammates was taking a little bit of credit for Buford’s big night.
“Will doesn’t know it, but sometimes I don’t (call out screens) because it makes him mad,” Sullinger said.
“The intensity picks up for Will and he gets mad at you. He channels that energy into the opponent.”
Buford admitted in Indianapolis that he plays more aggressive with a chip on his shoulder, and it appears his teammates have recognized that as well. It certainly showed up after his altercation with Michigan’s Jordan Morgan, but now his own teammates are finding ways to get him mad on the court.
“Will is Will. It’s the best saying that fits him,” Sullinger added.
“Don’t make him mad if you’re the opponent. Don’t be nice to him when you’re on the court, and sometimes let somebody pick him just to make him mad. If things aren’t going well, that kind of upsets him.”
Diebler’s Hand Hurting?
Jon Diebler's right pinky finger was taped for the duration of the Michigan game in the Big Ten tournament.
Photo by Jim Davidson
Ohio State may have cruised to a 29-point win over Texas-San Antonio Friday, but that doesn’t mean it was a stress-free day for Buckeye fans. After the game, sharp-shooter Jon Diebler was seen leaving with a bag of ice taped to his shooting wrist.
Because he was at the podium for such a long time after the game, Diebler spent very little time in the post-game locker room while it was open to the media. That left the door open for speculation that Diebler had injured his wrist during the game, but the senior from Upper Sandusky was quick to put those rumors to rest a day later.
“I just hurt my pinky, that’s all,” Diebler said Saturday.
“I jammed it a couple days ago in practice. I’m all right, it’s not a big deal.”
It didn’t seem to bother Diebler during the game, as he knocked down four of his eight shots from behind the arc. He finished the game with 14 points, five assists and four rebounds, but this isn’t the first time he’s been bothered by that pinky on his shooting hand.
“It’s nothing. I keep re-jamming it,” said Diebler, who was wearing tape on it during the Big Ten Tournament.
“It kind of looks disgusting but it will be all right.”
The pinky finger did look swollen and a little bruised as he held it up, but it shouldn’t be much of a concern. After going 1-for-5 from long-range against Northwestern in their opening game of the conference tournament, Diebler has hit 10 of his last 21 three-point shots.
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