COLUMBUS, Ohio – Deshaun Thomas scored 23 points and No. 2 Ohio State welcomed back star forward Jared Sullinger in an 82-58 victory against South Carolina Upstate on Wednesday night.
The Buckeyes (9-1) were effective if not overwhelming in rebounding from a 78-67 loss at No. 13 Kansas on Saturday.
Sullinger, who had missed Ohio State’s last two games, received polite applause when he entered the game at the 14:37 mark of the first half. He took his time getting into the pace of the game, finishing with 12 points and 10 rebounds.
Torrey Craig had 20 points for Upstate (6-5), playing its third game in a month-long, seven-game road swing. The Spartans, in their fifth season of Division I competition, and are 0-20 against teams from the six major conferences.
The win was Ohio State’s 31st consecutive at home, the second-longest streak ever at the school behind only the 50 in a row from 1959-64 while Jerry Lucas, John Havlicek and Gary Bradds starred for the Buckeyes.
William Buford added 14 points for Ohio State.
After the Spartans scored the first four points of the second half to cut the deficit to 37-31, the Buckeyes pulled away.
Sullinger, who played the last 14:37 of the first half and the first 7:20 of the second and a couple of minutes late, hit two free throws and Lenzelle Smith Jr. made a drive down the heart of the lane. After a basket by Upstate, Ohio State scored on its next three possessions — a dunk by Sullinger, Thomas off a long pass from Smith and Aaron Craft on left-handed layup off a baseline drive.
That made it 47-36 and the lead never dropped below nine points again.
It was Upstate which set the pace for most of the first half, playing sticky defense at one end and patiently distributing the ball at the other.
The Spartans led 21-17 at one point — and that was after Sullinger had played for several minutes.
He entered at the first media timeout and the Spartans promptly scored 16 of the next 21 points.
But order was restored late in the half.
From a tie at 26, the Buckeyes sprinted to an 11-2 run to finish the half.
Sullinger, who finished the half with eight points and five rebounds, started it with an uncontested dunk off a quick pass from Buford before Thomas hit a half-hook off an offensive rebound. After Adrian Rodgers hit a perimeter jumper for the Spartans, Buford hit a three-pointer from the right wing. Sullinger hit two free throws in the final seconds and after a turnover by Rodgers, Sam Thompson tossed a long pass to Ravenel for a dunk with three seconds left.
Suddenly, the crowd of 13,552 was breathing a lot easier.
Ohio State coach Thad Matta was honored before the game for winning his 300th career game when the Buckeyes beat Texas-Pan American on Dec. 3.
The Buckeyes are 75-2 against nonconference opponents in Columbus in Matta’s eight seasons.