Ohio State fans who flocked to the school’s Value City Arena Saturday night to see for themselves why Sullinger was good enough to receive and accept a scholarship offer from OSU head coach Thad Matta got all the proof they would need in Northland’s 62-40 win in the National City Classic over Columbus DeSales, considered by many the top Division II team in the area.
The 6-8 Sullinger held court at both ends of his future college floor and easily posted game highs with 24 points and 17 rebounds. The performance was impressive for Sullinger, the baby brother of J.J. Sullinger, the former OSU swingman/stuntman, and Julian Sullinger, currently the starting power forward at Kent State.
“Jared’s got a little bit of both of his brother’s games, man,” said Satch Sullinger, Northland’s coach and father to all three. “He’s got enough to go out and be enough of a threat, and if you’ve got a mismatch he can be very effective.”
DeSales, a Catholic school on the north side of town just a few minutes from Northland, now knows that all too well.
Jared hit 8 of 15 shots, some of them while facing the basket outside the key.
“I have to give that to my brothers, because all summer I will play them in one on one and they’ll never let me get on the inside so they make me take the jump shot,” he said.
In improving to 12-0, the Vikings, who just destroyed Whetstone 85-57 Friday night to improve to 8-0 in the City League, jumped out to a quick lead and never looked back.
“Those are the things that we’ve been working on,” Satch said. “We have to focus on what we do rather than focus on what someone is trying to do to us. I don’t care what we do if it fits into what we coach them to do in our system. They’re just starting to buy into it a little bit more.
“At this time of year we always talk about getting better at this time or getting worse. Nothing stays the same. And it’s obvious we’re getting better.”
DeSales (9-3) still has a lot to look forward to in the second half of the campaign and the postseason ahead, but the Stallions didn’t stack up with the second-ranked Division I team in Ohio.
Northland opened up a 14-7 lead after the first quarter and built it from there but didn’t get into the desired offensive flow until the second half, shooting 57.9 percent in the final 16 minutes.
Satch said the pieces fell in place when his players stopped moving the ball passively around the perimeter and decided to attack.
“We call it windshield wiper,” he said. “If the ball’s just being passed around the perimeter and never touches inside, people aren’t really squared up for a good look. When we go inside-out with our jump shots, we’re going to hit a higher percentage. And any time our bigs touch the ball, they’re going to score or get fouled or both two out of three times.”
The Stallions played with more purpose and discovered some offensive rhythm in the third period but still couldn’t do much to cut into an 11-point halftime deficit (29-18).
A free throw to open the second-half scoring and a three-pointer by forward Ike Ariguzo nipped the score to 29-22 but Northland answered with a three-point play by guard Dimonde Hale off an offensive putback and continued to reply whenever DeSales threatened the tighten the game.
Sullinger took over when the situation called by driving into the lane under control, hitting jumpers and abusing 7-foot DeSales center Sean Hobbs on both ends of the floor. Hobbs could only manage two points and two rebounds in the first half.
In the second, Sullinger bothered Hobbs defensively, out-positioned him for rebounds and scored with a feathery touch on offense. After Hobbs was pulled with four fouls and coach Blair Albright searching for some more outside shooting, Sullinger moved comfortably out to the backcourt and helped the Vikings spread the floor.
Northland showed the killer instinct becoming of an undefeated team as the fourth quarter unfolded. Nick Kellogg opened the period with a basket to trim the Northland advantage to 44-36. Sullinger responded by splashing a 16-foot jumper and he and J.D. Weatherspoon each drew fouls on successive drives and split a pair of free throws to move the lead to 48-36.
After Kellogg hit a fadeaway, Northland scored nine straight points to put the game away.
Sullinger started that spree by drawing Hobbs’ fourth foul and canning both free throws. After rejecting a shot attempt at the other end, he then logged a three-point play after hauling in his own miss inside. After another miss by the Stallions, Sullinger grabbed the defensive rebound and flicked a deep outlet to a streaking Devon Moore for a fastbreak layup.
The exclamation point came when Moore made a perfect 35-foot alley-oop pass to Weatherspoon – a high-flying, 15-year-old sophomore – who proceeded to slam the lob down one-handed with authority.
Weatherspoon supported Sullinger with 12 points. Moore, a senior point guard who has his coach’s full trust, added 11.
Like Sullinger a well-regarded sophomore, Kellogg, the son of former Ohio State star Clark Kellogg, led DeSales with 14 points and three assists. However, he was just 5 of 17 from the field. Nick Goff added 13 points and connected on three deep balls as the Stallions tried to show some fight of their own.
“It was a good experience, especially playing them at the Schott,” Sullinger said. “They’re a good team. Nick Kellogg played his heart out. The big man had a nice game. He blocked a couple shots and played well.”
Sullinger stayed sternly composed throughout the game and postgame, but smiled widely when a reporter asked him if J.J. offered him any advice on how to perform at VCA.
“One tip he gave me was play around, and I don’t do that,” he said. “Have fun and dance on the floor, like the picture in the newspaper when he had on his tights. He told me to do that and I was like, `I’m all right.’ ”