Coach: Jared Sullinger to play Tuesday
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Coach Thad Matta says star forward Jared Sullinger, who missed most of Saturday's win at South Carolina with a sore foot, will play when No. 2 Ohio State hosts Lamar on Tuesday night.
Sullinger left Saturday's game in the first half and had to be taken to a hospital for tests after hurting his left foot. He reappeared later on the bench with crutches. He tweeted after the game that he would practice the next day; except he didn't.
Matta is convinced that Sullinger, who also missed two recent games with back spasms, will play.
"I'm expecting him to play, just from what he's saying, how much better it felt yesterday than it did on Saturday and how much better it feels today than it did on Sunday," said Matta, who picked up his 200th Ohio State win in Saturday's game.
Initially, Sullinger thought he had been kicked on the ankle, but Matta said it was later determined that it was an injured tendon.
In his place, 6-foot-7 sophomore Deshaun Thomas had the game of his young life.
He hit 13 of 17 shots from the floor -- he's made his past 17 two-point field goals over two games -- and was selected as the Big Ten's player of the week for scoring a career-best 30 points.
Thomas has been on a roll lately for the Buckeyes (10-1), adding 23 points in a win over South Carolina Upstate three nights earlier.
He credits a heart-to-heart he and Matta had recently. The coach told him that he wasn't coming to games mentally prepared. So he's adopted a relaxing, but pointed way of getting ready. He listens to Lil Wayne during pregame to get focused.
"Having my mind right is something special," Thomas said. "Ever since he gave me that talk, things have been successful. Since then, I always have prepared my mind at the beginning of the game. I listen to music I like, and just prepare for any challenge. For him to say that to me was a blessing, because he knows what I am capable of doing."
Another player has also shown what he can do when Sullinger has been sidelined.
Amir Williams, a 6-10 freshman, has filled in admirably with increased minutes when the Buckeyes' big man has been out.
"(Coach Matta) is always telling me, 'Be ready to play, be ready to play,' because you never know what could happen at any given moment with Jared suffering two minor injuries," said Williams, who had six points, four rebounds and two blocked shots in 15 minutes. "He just tells me it's my time."
Hall of Fame coach Bob Knight, an Ohio State alum, will also be honored at Tuesday night's game
"He's going to be at practice today, but we have to code everything because his son coaches the other team," Matta said Monday.
Then, after a moment of silence, he cracked, "That's a joke."
Lamar (8-3) is coached by Knight's son, Pat.
When Ohio State scheduled the game, it also figured to be an ideal time to honor one of college basketball's greatest coaches with 902 wins at Army, Indiana and Texas Tech.
Matta is pleased that Knight, who was long estranged from Ohio State, is coming home. An Ohio native, Knight was a substitute on the 1960 Buckeyes team led by Jerry Lucas and John Havlicek that won the school's only national championship in men's basketball.
He did return two years ago when that team was honored during a home game.
Even though a half-century had elapsed since his playing days, Knight remains a larger-than-life figure.
"Our guys were looking at him like, 'That's Coach Knight right there,' " Matta said. "You look at his resume, what he's done, it's truly amazing."
Information from The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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