Sullinger says he was spit on
The spit has since hit the fan.
Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan came out in defense of the Badgers’ rabid fans at Kohl Center. Ohio State coach Thad Matta tried to defuse the situation by saying, basically, kids will be kids. And people all over are saying way too much was made of the incident, if it even did occur, or that students should not be permitted to rush the court.
Ryan said on Monday’s Big Ten coaches teleconference that there are video cameras all over Kohl Center and he had seen no evidence that any saliva was hurled.
Ohio State (24-1, 11-1) came into the game No. 1 in the country and the nation’s last remaining unbeaten major-college team. The Buckeyes led by as many as 15 points in the second half before then-No. 13 Wisconsin got a hot hand—hitting 12 three-pointers—to pull it out.
Afterward, hundreds of celebrating Badgers fans flooded the court.
Sullinger, a 6-foot-9 freshman and national player of the year contender, spoke with reporters after the game and did not mention the incident. Then again, he wasn’t asked about it, either. He even praised the boisterous fans at Kohl Center, some of whom chanted obscene things at the Buckeyes.
It was only later that Sullinger posted on his Twitter account: “Buckeye Nation if you ever decide to rush the court. Don’t ever spit on the opponents. Just a lil tip from me to you.” He later added another Tweet: “To be spit on is just nasty. On top of that in my Face. Before and after the game. Smh (shake my head). I just kept walking.”
After a day or so of bloggers, columnists and the general public weighing in on “Spitgate,” the coaches were asked about it on the Big Ten teleconference on Monday.
Ryan said the entire Kohl Center is videotaped and said the tapes did not show Sullinger being sullied by spit.
“There’s absolutely nothing that has come to my attention,” Ryan said of the lack of video evidence.
He had some advice for players and fans.
“All I know is we won the game, deal with it, our end, their end,” he said.
He added, “It was well-played by two teams. You hear a lot about how the teams went after each other and it was great for the Big Ten, and our fans were absolutely fantastic. What a great day for our students.”
Matta tried to downplay the situation. On the conference call he said, “(Sullinger) got spit on when the students stormed the court. A student ran by him and spit on him. Nothing too major.”
Later, Matta said he didn’t see the actual expectoration. He also said it is frightening when an opposing team gets caught in a crush of opposing fans.
“You know, it is a little bit scary,” he said. “What is it, the SEC has the rule where you get fined if you storm the court? But there’s also an element of, it’s college athletics and the incident. ... I mean, what are you going to do?”
Sullinger was not made available to speak to reporters on Monday.
Ohio State guard Jon Diebler was also enveloped by the onrushing crowd and had some difficulty getting out of the crush and into the locker room.
“It was hard to get out, that’s for sure,” he said on Monday.
Asked about the spitting incident, he added, “It’s unfortunate that things like that would go on. I don’t know what, I don’t know if it really happened—obviously I don’t think Jared would lie about it. But I didn’t see anything. It’s unfortunate something like that happens. Especially with college students.”
Matta said he was pleased with how Sullinger was handling the whole thing.
“I think he’s been great,” he said. “I found out I think when we got back to Columbus that it had happened. The things that people yell at you when you’re walking off the court, that sort of stuff, that’s just part of it. Really nothing you can do. I mean, they buy their tickets, they can yell or say or chant whatever they want to.”
The Ohio State football team has had problems in the past with Wisconsin fans at Camp Randall Stadium hurling coins at them. Some have said they were pelted with marshmallows with coins shoved inside them.
“Those things happen. It was a crazy environment, which was great for college basketball, for their fans and that sort of stuff,” he said. “You don’t want stuff like that to happen, but you can’t do anything about it.”
The teams meet again on March 6, this time on the Buckeyes’ home court.
As Sullinger put it on his Twitter account: “More fuel to the fire.”