Justice Sueing settling into well-rounded role for Ohio State

Adam Jardy
Buckeye Xtra
Ohio State's Justice Sueing, here drawing contact while scoring against Penn State on Wednesday, turned in his most complete against the Nittany Lions with 13 points, 10 rebounds and five steals.

Justice Sueing has been asked to take on extra responsibilities this month. As the Ohio State men’s basketball team has dealt with the absence and then return of primary ball-handler CJ Walker, the 6-foot-7 Sueing has morphed into something resembling a point-forward, a scorer and distributor who also can direct the offense.

With the result of Wednesday’s game against Penn State in the balance, Sueing blended that role with what he did best during his two seasons at the University of California. With Ohio State trailing by two points with less than two minutes to play, Sueing rejected a ball screen from Musa Jallow, put the ball in his dominant hand and drove left.

Penn State’s Seth Lundy tripped him on his way to the paint, and a player who has been among the nation’s best at getting to the free-throw line was headed there. Sueing knocked down both attempts, tying the score at 79, and then helped steal the ball from Lundy at the other end as No. 13 Ohio State closed on a 6-0 run for an 83-79 win, its fifth in its past six games.

“I touched a little bit of everything and I’m glad we were able to pull through,” Sueing said after the game. “As long as I play my game, I feel like I’m going to bring a lot.”

Ohio State men's basketball:BuckeyeXtra Basketball podcast | Ohio State fends off Penn State 83-79 after losing a 12-point lead

The performance was Sueing’s most impactful overall since his arrival at Ohio State. In 30 minutes, he finished with 13 points and 10 rebounds for his second double-double of the season, but he also added a career-high-tying five steals and two blocked shots.

After initially struggling against the improved scouting and increased physicality that comes with playing in the Big Ten, it was a sign Sueing has started to settle in.  

“We knew his adjustment was going to be one that would take time,” coach Chris Holtmann said. “He’s going to continue to go through ups and downs. He made big plays tonight. Four steals in the first half and his activity across the board was important to us.”

As one of only two Buckeyes to start all 17 games this season — the other being guard Duane Washington Jr. — Sueing enters Sunday’s game with Michigan State third on the team in scoring at 10.5 points per game, third in rebounding at 5.3 per game and tops in steals with 18.

He’s shooting 57.7% from two-point range in league play, 15th best in the Big Ten, and according to KenPom.com is 10th in free-throw rate, which measures how often a player gets to the line relative to how much he shoots.

Sueing also has done all of that while moving into the point guard spot for the four games Walker missed, and is still handling some of those responsibilities upon his return.

Ohio State men's basketball:In point guard debut, Ohio State's Justice Sueing shines in win against Northwestern

“It’s just about adjusting and being persistent, coming in every day trying to get better,” Sueing said of his continued growth. “It’s obviously a lot more physical league. It’s definitely a shift, but I feel like I’ve adjusted pretty well and I’ll continue to get better.”

Sueing’s turnovers have matched the increased responsibilities handling the ball. He had three of Ohio State’s season-high 17 in the Penn State game, one of which came in the final seconds of the first half as the Nittany Lions scored four points in 16 seconds off consecutive steals.

“Yeah, that’s just unacceptable,” Sueing said. “We can’t close out a half like that.”

ajardy@dispatch.com

@AdamJardy