College Hoops Player of the Day for Saturday, March 24, 2012
Ohio State is in the Final Four for the first time since 2007 after defeating Syracuse in the East region final, 77-70, on Saturday.
The Buckeyes head to New Orleans with an experienced squad that finished the Big Ten regular season tied with Michigan and Michigan State for the title at 13-5 and is 31-7 overall. Their on-court leader, sophomore Jared Sullinger, the team's top scorer and rebounder, was once again a key factor in the Buckeyes' success.
Sullinger was forced to sit out the final 16 minutes of the first half after picking up his second foul just four minutes into the contest. Still, he finished with a game-high, 19 points, scoring 15 points in the second half and leading the Buckeyes to break open a 29-all tie at the break. Sullinger has had four fouls in a game 11 times this season, fouling out just once, in a February 21, 83-67, win over Illinois. On Saturday, he committed just one more foul over the last 20 minutes of play.
Leading all scorers with 19 points, Sullinger also was a factor on the boards when he was allowed to play his usual fearless, low-post style. He ripped down seven rebounds for the Buckeyes, which led Syracuse, 37-22, in rebounding. Considering he played only 26 minutes, his personal numbers and the final score might have been vastly different had he been on the floor his normal 32-35 minutes.
Ohio State will face Sunday's winner of the Midwest regional final between North Carolina and Kansas. They'll be in New Orleans for one of the two national semi-final games on Saturday, March 31.