Ohio State lost its third game to Kansas in a 365 day stretch this afternoon in Columbus, Ohio. Making only two field goals in a fifteen minute stretch in the second half, Ohio State’s defense couldn’t force enough errors from Kansas to compensate. A late push by Kansas around the under-8 made what was a two point game into a three possession game. Ohio State lost 73-66 at the final whistle.
The first four minutes may have been a preview of what was to come when Kansas had the ball.1 Therein, we saw several problems manifest. Jeff Withey, the one guy we really couldn’t afford to let overwhelm us, overwhelmed us. Kansas’ interior size prohibited a lot of rebounds for Ohio State, leading to a substantial rebounding advantage that Kansas had until the game was well in hand. Kansas finished +4 in that department. Withey himself finished with 14 points on 5/12 shooting and 10 rebounds, exactly what we did not want. Further, Kansas’ athletic guards were too much for us. Ben McLemore, Kansas’ leading scorer, paced the Jaybirds early in the first half, and through the rest of the game. He led all scorers with 22.
However, the introduction of Shannon Scott into the festivities turned this game around in the first half. Scott appears to have cemented himself as the wild card of this team, and the team’s most dynamic player. Scott’s substitution keyed a 14-0 run for Ohio State, which saw the Buckeyes lead through the meat of the first half. Defense played a big role in this run. Scott had two steals to prime that run for Ohio State, also putting KU at double digit first half turnovers. Scott finished with 15 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 steals. However, that first half lead was squandered when Bill Self called the team’s second timeout of the first half and brought back his starters. A 9-0 Kansas run, ended with a Lenzelle Smith slam dunk, put Kansas ahead two at intermission. This situation held until Kansas pulled away around the under-8 of the second half.
I’m sure teeth will be gnashed about Ohio State’s shooting in the second half, and quite frankly they need to be gnashed. Deshaun Thomas had the first five Ohio State points of the second half, one on a three pointer and the other on a layup. However, this was all in the first 90 seconds of the second stanza. Ohio State did not make another field goal until an Amir Williams layup ten minutes later. Before a Lenzelle Smith long-range jumper with 2:18 left, Thomas and Williams were 4/6 shooting in the second half. Everyone else was 0/20.
Ohio State added some dressing on these bricks later into the game, but not much. The team finished with 30% shooting on the game, compared to Kansas’ 51% shooting. Ohio State was 8/31 from behind the arc. Some of the individual stats are a little more eye-opening. Aaron Craft was 2/9 for the game. Lenzelle Smith was 3/13 this game, 0/7 from behind the arc. Ross was 1/5, providing no real change of pace from the bench.
This is problematic for Ohio State because a lot of these jump shots were wide open. By the end of the second half, Kansas had essentially signaled that it did not care what Aaron Craft did outside the paint. There was no token rush against an open Craft jumper from any distance, fully expecting Craft would brick it. Doom, gloom, and hyperbole are unnecessary, but it was kind of obvious to everyone watching. This team doesn’t have a shooter on the squad, and Aaron Craft’s regression on offense is a bit concerning. We also don’t have any offensive threats on the pivot as well. How we address this is a bit of a mystery to me.
There’s still a way to go this season, and a lot of basketball left to be played. I doubt this means Ohio State is in danger of not getting a 20 win season for Thad Matta for the first time in his coaching career. Nor, for that matter, do I think we are a bubble team. We are a very good basketball team that just can’t seem to be elite, though, this year, we might be the fourth or fifth best team in the B1G TEN.
Thus, this loss hurts a little more symbolically. Ohio State, year in and year out, is a very good team in the best conference in college basketball, often the best in the league. However, Ohio State can’t seem to put it together against the basketball blue bloods like Kansas and Kentucky. Lest we forget about Ohio State victories over the likes of Duke last year, or Georgetown in the Final Four in 2007. Still, Ohio State basketball seems to be chasing that white whale, and will continue to do so after its third consecutive loss to Kansas in a 365 day window.
Ohio State is off for the holidays, returning to action on December 29th against Chicago State in Value City Arena. Be there, or be square.
- That said, I never saw Kansas’ six inbounds points coming. Inbounds defense is supposed to be our specialty, and Kansas nuked it. [↩]