Beating the Kansas Jayhawks at Allen Fieldhouse is never easy, and going into the game knowing your best player and All-American Jared Sullinger is unavailable doesn’t make it any easier. Still, Ohio State hung around all day and made a game of it before losing at Kansas, 78-67. For the Jayhawks (7-2) to beat the Buckeyes (8-1), it took more than just Sullinger’s absence. The Buckeyes shot just 38.7% in the game and Kansas hit 58.3%. The disparity from beyond the arc also favored Kansas (52.9%-29.4%). In not having Sullinger to defend, the Jayhawks didn’t have to double team the post, allowing them to contest the perimeter. Without Sullinger’s brilliant kick-out passes, the Buckeyes had trouble finding open shots in their half-court offense. But, time and again Kansas pushed its lead to double digits and the Buckeyes responded each time. In the end, there were too many misses, too many bad shots, not enough defensive stops and hot Kansas shooting that made the difference, giving the Jayhawks their 47th consecutive home win against non-conference competition.
William Buford kept Ohio State in the game with a big second half, scoring 17 of his 21 after halftime. Deshaun Thomas scored a season-high 19, but 15 of that came before the break. Aaron Craft added 11 points, eight after halftime, to go with six assists and five rebounds. Buford, Thomas and Evan Ravenel (9 points) equaled Craft’s five boards in what was a good team rebounding effort. Ohio State was outrebounded only 30-27, despite not having Sullinger and having to face 7-foot Jeff Withey and All-American candidate Thomas Robinson. Another key to the game was Kansas’ 21-4 advantage in bench scoring. Kevin Young was particularly harmful to Ohio State, with 14 off the bench, including a couple of timely treys. Robinson scored 21 for Kansas and was as good as advertised, though he did draw a foolish technical foul for taunting freshman Amir Williams, who played a meaningful 15 minutes and did some generally good things. Elijah Johnson made Ohio State pay for trying to double Robinson, with 15 points on 5-7 shooting behind the arc, mostly on wide-open looks.
Kansas never trailed in the game, opening the game on a 9-2 run. Ohio State took some time finding any offensive rhythm, forcing some early shots in the hostile environment. The Buckeyes couldn’t get Buford involved early and it wasn’t until Thomas started to get hot that the offense started getting going. While the Tank was sizzling, the Buckeyes were able to close the gap every time Kansas threatened to run away with the game. Ohio State’s last run fueled by a Craft layup and-one, and a deep Buford triple cut the Kansas lead to six with just under two minutes to play, making it 73-67. But the Buckeyes would get no closer, missing their last six shots.
Ohio State was fortunate to be down only six at the half, 35-29. The Buckeyes turned the ball over nine times and shot only 33.3% in the opening 20 minutes. Meanwhile, Kansas hit 65.2% on field goals and at one point late in the first half was shooting 78%. Part of it was poor defensive rotation on the perimeter by Ohio State and some of it was allowing easy layups on entry passes. Kansas turned the ball over 12 times and Thomas’ 15 first-half points helped Ohio State stay close. The Jayhawks pushed their lead to double digits a few times, but the Buckeyes battled back each time. On the offensive end, the Buckeyes hurt themselves with offensive fouls (three charges), poor shot selection and some critical missed free throws by Amir Williams and Lenzelle Smith Jr. Thomas made 5-8 from the floor and 3-5 behind the arc. No other Buckeye scored more than four in the opening half. Kevin Young scored nine off the bench to lead Kansas, getting some easy transition baskets and a few layups. Robinson led the Jayhawk starters with seven points.
The Buckeyes held Tyshawn Taylor to nine points, but he did finish with 13 assists, eight of which came in the first half. Taylor also turned the ball over seven times. As a team, the Jayhawks turned it over 18 times in all, but Ohio State had 15 of its own, failing to take advantage. It was a sloppy game overall by both teams and not one you’d expect from the Nos. 2 and 13 teams in the country.
There were some positives in the loss for Ohio State. Ravenel and Williams got some more valuable experience. Williams looked pretty good, making only a few freshman mistakes. He only scored two points, but he held his own for the most part against some very good competition. On the other hand, Jordan Sibert had a tough night for the Buckeyes in 15 minutes off the bench. Thad Matta didn’t use his bench much. Aside from the 15 minutes each for Williams and Sibert, Shannon Scott played two minutes.
Ohio State returns home Wednesday to face something called South Carolina-Upstate.
Notes: Buford passed Terrence Dials and Allan Hornyak on Ohio State’s all-time scoring list, moving into 11th place. Buford is 24 points behind Robin Freeman for 10th place…Ohio State falls to 3-5 all-time against Kansas and 18-21 all-time against the Big 12…Craft, not known for his scoring, has reached double figures five times in nine games this season.