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Buckeyes squeeze past South Carolina after Sullinger departs

Dec 18, 2011 - 12:12 AM Columbia, SC (Sports Network) - Deshaun Thomas scored 30 points, as No. 2 Ohio State earned a 74-66 victory over South Carolina despite losing forward Jared Sullinger to a foot injury.

Sullinger, the preseason All-Big Ten Player of the Year, was kicked in the foot early in the second half and departed for the locker room. He did not return and was diagnosed with a bone bruise after X-rays revealed there was no fracture.

William Buford added 17 points for the Buckeyes (10-1), who rebounded from a 33-29 halftime deficit to earn their second straight win.

"We didn't have the answers in the first half that we needed offensively against the zone, but you know, give our guys credit," Ohio State coach Thad Matta said. "One of the things I stressed most was rebounding, and I thought we did a very good job at that. I'm happy to get in here, get a win, and get out."

Malik Cooke paced the Gamecocks (4-6) with 21 points, while Anthony Gill added 11.

"I'm really disappointed with the loss," South Carolina coach Darrin Horn said. "This is a game our guys believed we could win. I think we played that way for 40 minutes. We did not come in here just to play good and hope we looked all right. We came to win the game, and we didn't do that. So that part of it is extremely disappointing."

Sullinger missed two games this season with back spasms before returning for Wednesday's win over USC-Upstate. In his absence, the Buckeyes suffered their lone loss of the year -- a 78-67 defeat at Kansas last Saturday.

Against South Carolina, Sullinger departed for the locker room less than 10 minutes into the game. The Gamecocks took advantage.

OSU held an 18-11 lead midway through the half, but an 11-4 SC run, capped by Eric Smith's trey, made it 22-22 with just under six minutes remaining.

South Carolina took its first lead of the contest, 27-26, on Damien Leonard's top-of-the-key three-pointer with 3:38 remaining and held a four-point advantage at the break.

The Buckeyes, though, reclaimed the lead less than four minutes into the second half on Lenzelle Smith Jr.'s jumper. Gill responded with a bucket on the other end, but a three by Smith and a layup by Buford put OSU on top, 41-37, with just over 15 minutes left.

Buford stretched the advantage to double digits, making it 57-46 with a pair of free throws with 8:46 remaining and the Buckeyes held on for the eight- point victory.

Game Notes

Matta earned his 200th win with the program. He has a 302-89 all-time record, including a 200-58 mark with Ohio State. Only two other coaches in program history, Fred Taylor (297) and Harold G. Olsen (259), have reached the 200-win plateau...The Buckeyes lead the Gamecocks, 3-1, in the all-time series...Sullinger finished with three points and two rebounds in six minutes of action.