World of hurt for Buckeyes

The preseason talk in the Big Ten had Ohio State as the runaway favorite.

Now, forward Jared Sullinger's mounting health issues raise questions about the No. 2 Buckeyes' national dominance and could have some conference teams eyeing an opening.

Sullinger, a standout sophomore, will play against Lamar on Tuesday night despite suffering a left foot injury against South Carolina on Saturday. He previously had missed two games with back spasms.

Coach Thad Matta told reporters Monday that Sullinger injured a tendon in his ankle before leaving the game against the Gamecocks in the first half. Sullinger tried to assure Buckeyes fans by tweeting after the game, "#FYI I will be fine ppl.... Back at it tomorrow."

But the most reassurance came from sophomore forward Deshaun Thomas, who had 30 points and six rebounds at South Carolina without Sullinger.

Nagging injuries could change the national picture, so the quicker Sullinger heals, the better for the Buckeyes.

Paying the price: The punishment began Sunday. And the consequences were harsh.

With Xavier point guard Tu Holloway, shooting guard Mark Lyons and forward Dez Wells on the bench for a fight a week prior against Cincinnati, the team missed the bulk of its scoring power and lost 64-42 to Oral Roberts.

Xavier's mailbox probably wasn't stuffed with sympathy cards, but it is wise for the team to continue to apologize for its part in the bench-clearing brawl.

"We were all embarrassed by our behavior last weekend," coach Chris Mack told the crowd before the game. "It's extremely disappointing and in no way was a representation of what our university and our basketball program is all about."

Holloway will return Thursday against Long Beach State from a one-game suspension for his trash-talking that sparked the fight.

Player of the week: Baylor's Perry Jones III. Jones re-entered the game after knocking knees with a BYU player to score the winning basket in the final minute. His tip-in gave Baylor a much-needed victory against a quality opponent to prove its merit, and a win at BYU's raucous arena sufficed. Jones hit 11 of 16 field goals for 28 points to go with eight rebounds, four assists and three steals.

Games to watch: Butler at Gonzaga, Tuesday. Butler found a nice reason to celebrate with a last-second comeback victory against Purdue. Gonzaga is hoping a solid victory against Arizona gets it back on track.

Memphis at Georgetown, Thursday. Their meeting in Maui resulted in a 91-88 Hoyas overtime victory. Memphis is considered an underachiever this season, so a victory at Georgetown would help its reputation.

Illinois vs. Missouri, Thursday, St. Louis. The Illini started with 10 straight victories. But they can't afford losses to two quality opponents — having fallen to UNLV on Saturday — before Big Ten play starts, can they?

sryan@tribune.com

Twitter @sryantribune

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