COLUMBIA (AP) — Deshaun Thomas scored a career high 30 points and No. 2 Ohio State overcame the loss of star Jared Sullinger to defeat South Carolina 74-66 on Saturday and give Thad Matta his 200th win as Buckeyes coach.
Sullinger left in the first half after getting kicked in the left foot. X-rays showed no fracture, although it wasn’t known if Sullinger would play against Lamar on Tuesday night in Ohio State’s next game.
Even if he can’t, Thomas showed he’s more than ready to lead Ohio State (10-1). The 6-foot-7 sophomore hit 13 of 16 shots and surpassed his previous high of 24 points set last season against North Carolina A&T. William Buford added 17 points for Ohio State.
Malik Cooke led South Carolina (4-6) with 21 points.
Matta, in his ninth season with Ohio State, became just the third coach in school history to reach 200 wins, joining Fred Taylor (279 wins 1959-76) and Harold G. Olsen (254 from 1923-46).
Ohio State trailed 35-29 as Lakeem Jackson started the second half with all-too easy inside bucket. Then the Buckeyes began a 20-8 charge to take control.
Thomas got the run started with a jumper. Lenselle Smith Jr. had a basket and a 3-pointer to put Ohio State in front for good, 41-37. Thomas added a 3-pointer and finished the surge with a short jump shot for a 49-43 lead.
The Buckeyes eventually built the lead to 11 points.
South Carolina cut things to 70-63 in the in the final minute. But Buford answered with a 3-pointer with 48.2 seconds to go to restore Ohio State’s edge.
Ohio State figured to roll over a troubled Gamecocks club that had already lost to Elon and Tennessee State. Things started to change for the Buckeyes when Sullinger came up limping after getting kicked in the left foot on an early possession.
Trainers spent several minutes working on Sullinger’s foot on the bench before he put his sneaker back on, talked with Matta and returned to action. But Sullinger was limping badly moments later after defending Carlton Geathers’ drive with 10 minutes to go.
Ohio State was up 18-11 after William Buford hit a 3-pointer and made a breakaway basket off a South Carolina miss.
The Gamecocks, though, closed the half with a 22-11 run to lead 33-29 at the break. Malik Cooke had 10 points in the half, including a pair of baskets in the final two minutes as the Gamecocks moved in front.
South Carolina was also helped by a technical foul on Ohio State’s Amir Williams, who taunted R.J. Slawson after a bucket.
The Buckeyes had hoped to build on the momentum with Sullinger back for his second straight game. He had missed two games with back spasms, including Ohio State’s only loss of the season, 78-67, at Kansas last Saturday.
Earlier this week, Sullinger looked like his smooth, confident self with 12 points and 10 rebounds in 25 minutes of action in an 82-58 win at USC Upstate on Wednesday.
Results of the X-rays showed no fracture in the foot. Still, team spokesman Dan Wallenberg said it was too soon to know when Sullinger might play again. Ohio State faces Lamar on Tuesday and Miami of Ohio on Thursday before opening Big Ten Conference play against Northwestern on Dec. 28.
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