Sullinger Expected to Play, Maybe
By Brandon Castel
As expected, Thad Matta’s first question during his Monday press conference in Columbus was about the health of star big man Jared Sullinger.
Photo by Jim Davidson
“Yes, he’s going to play,” Matta told reporters two days after Sullinger left Ohio State’s game at South Carolina with a bone bruise in his left foot.
After leaving Saturday’s game—just his second since returning from back spasms—Sullinger returned to the bench on crutches. He seemed fine standing up and cheering for his team as the Buckeyes held on for a 74-66 win without him.
The team’s star sophomore also told Matta he would be ready to go for Tuesday night’s game against Lamar University (8:30 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network), but Matta isn’t making any promises.
“I'm just saying he’s playing, and if he doesn’t, he doesn’t,” an obviously flabbergasted Matta said.
“I’m kind of beat up by trying to figure out everything, so the heck with it. We’ll play with who we’ve got when it gets here.”
Sullinger came off the bench against USC-Upstate in his first game back after missing two with a back injury. The preseason All-American gave the Buckeyes 12 points and 10 rebounds in 25 minutes off the bench and returned to the starting lineup Saturday.
He scored three points and grabbed two rebounds in the opening minutes of the game, but suddenly limped off the court. He had his left foot examined on the bench and eventually had to leave the arena for an X-Ray after getting kicked hard in the foot.
The Buckeyes did not practice Sunday and Matta said he unsure Sullinger would be able to get in a full practice before Tuesday night’s game. He has not had much practice time since suffering back spasms during the Duke game back on Nov. 29, and Matta admitted it is often hard to get a gauge on exactly how close Sullinger is to being ready.
“A lot of it is what a guy is telling you how he feels, and you go with that. And we want Jared, or whoever, practicing and playing at full strength all the time,” he said.
“There are so many different ways you can look at things, but you've got to look at what's best for your team and what you're trying to build.”
First and foremost, however, Matta is going to look at what is best for Jared Sullinger, both in the present and for his future career—both at the collegiate level and in the NBA.
“It's so easy to look at something from the outside and not know what's going on in the inside,” Matta said.
“Obviously we're going to do what's best for our kids and their well-being, even more than for our team. I think that's our obligation to our kids.”
So either Sullinger will play tonight against Lamar, or he won’t. It will likely be a game time decision and Matta is only going to put his star on the court if Sullinger is really healthy enough to go.
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