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Jayhawks Chalk Up Cold Buckeyes

Ohio State picked a real bad time to have its worst shooting game in many moons.

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The seventh-ranked Buckeyes hit a season-low 31 percent of their shots – including a woeful 25 percent (9 of 36) in the second half – in dropping a 74-66 decision to No. 9 Kansas Saturday afternoon before a sellout crowd of 19,049 at Value City Arena and a national television audience.

How bad was it? Well:

* There was a smattering of boos as OSU had missed five straight shots and fallen behind 64-52 at the under-4 timeout with 2:30 left. By that point, a few of the faithful had already headed for higher ground elsewhere.

* For the game, OSU was 8 of 31 on three-pointers (25.8 percent), including just 2 of 18 (11.1 percent) in the decisive second half.

* OSU’s starting lineup of Aaron Craft, Lenzelle Smith Jr., Sam Thompson, Deshaun Thomas and Evan Ravenel was a combined 12 of 45 (26.7 percent) from the floor. Most egregious were Thompson (3 of 10), Craft (2 of 6) and Smith (3 of 13).

* OSU had field goal droughts of four minutes in the first half and 10 and five minutes in the second.

“At one point I turned to the bench and said, ‘Hey, let’s call a play where we score,’ ” OSU coach Thad Matta could only joke afterwards. “Nevertheless, it was as high level of a basketball as you can find at this time of the year. The way Kansas was playing coming into the game and their experience showed on the tapes we watched. I thought we battled them, but didn’t play with the toughness and tenacity we needed to.”

Matta added, “We just needed one to go. We had some good drive-and-kicks, but it was just one (miss) after another.”

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Kansas (10-1) defeated Ohio State (9-2) for the third time in a little over a year, following wins over the Buckeyes in Lawrence last December and in the NCAA Final Four last March.

“I don’t know if we have anybody’s number,” KU coach Bill Self said. “The first time we played them last year, (Jared) Sullinger didn’t play. The second time we played them, they really controlled the game and we just made some plays later.

“Today is probably the best we’ve played against Ohio State in the three games. I thought we were really good except for about a three-minute stretch in the first half where they went on a (14-0) run. Other than that stretch, that was a pretty good 35 minutes we played out there today.”

Redshirt freshman wing Ben McLemore was the man of this match with 22 points and six rebounds to lead Kansas.

Center Jeff Withey had 14 points and 10 rebounds. For the third time in as many meetings with OSU, the Kansas backcourt of Elijah Johnson (13 points) and Travis Releford (11 points) excelled for the Jayhawks.

Releford also had a hand in containing Thomas, OSU’s leading scorer. He was held to 16 points – four below his average – and also grabbed six rebounds.

“We play two traditional big men and (Thomas) is not traditional,” Self said. “It was probably a good match-up for us to play a guard (Releford) on him. Then, we trapped him on the post with Jeff. We didn’t totally take them out of anything by any stretch. My concern was the pick-and-pop action they get so much. He still made a couple off that action, but for the most part we did a good job with that.”

By double-teaming Thomas, the Jayhawks limited his shots and got the ball out of his hands. He finished 4 of 11 from the field (3 of 7 behind the arc).

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“The 7-foot guy (Withey) would double-team me and it was hard to see over him,” Thomas said. “I just tried to hit the open man. We had wide-open looks and I trusted my teammates to knock down the shots. They had good looks and didn’t go down. I just kept telling them to keep shooting.”

Matta added, “When that happens, to break the dam you’ve got to knock down some shots. In the first half, they backed off Sam and he hit a couple shots. They just kept running guys at him and they had good size on the wings.”

Shannon Scott came off the bench and had 15 points, six rebounds and four assists for the Buckeyes. Thompson added nine points, while Craft had seven. Backup center Amir Williams added six points, eight rebounds and two blocked shots for OSU.

The first half saw each team make a concerted run. Kansas led 37-35 at the intermission as the Jayhawks shot a spiffy 55.6 percent (15 of 27) and got 13 points from McLemore. Scott came off the bench to provide a spark for the Buckeyes with 10 points and three assists.

Four Kansas starters scored in the first 5-1/2 minutes as the Jayhawks got out to a quick 11-6 lead. The lead went as high as seven at 16-9 after Withey tipped in a KU miss and McLemore hit a three from the left corner off an inside-out pass from Kevin Young.

Kansas still led 23-17 after a three by Naadir Tharpe with 10:08 left in the half.

But the Buckeyes then went on a 14-0 run, holding Kansas without a field goal for nearly 4-1/2 minutes. Thomas started this run with a pair of free throws. Scott drove for a layup. Scott then fed Thomas for a three from the left corner. Scott then tipped in a Thompson miss. Amir Williams then grabbed a defensive rebound and outletted to Craft, who pushed ahead to Thompson for a layup on a baseline drive. KU coach Bill Self used two timeouts to try and stem the tide of this run. But Scott banked in a three off a Craft pass to put the Buckeyes up 31-23 with 6:10 left in the half.

“I just wanted to come in there and push the pace,” Scott said. “I was able to create for my teammates. In the second half, Kansas started getting back on defense and it was more difficult.”

Sam Thompson hit two early threes and had nine points for OSU

However, Kansas came right back and outscored OSU 14-4 over the remainder of the half. The Buckeyes went without a field goal for over four minutes, allowing KU to go up 32-31 on a driving bank shot by Elijah Johnson.

Smith broke the drought with a jam off a pass from Thomas. But a McLemore three and a Releford jam after a Craft turnover helped the Jayhawks go up 37-35 at the break.

Self liked the way his team answered the OSU run.

“That was probably the best stretch for us,” Self said. “We had three timeouts in about a minute. I called two of them and there was a TV timeout. Nothing was going right. Somehow we were able to weather the storm and we did it by throwing the ball inside. We got a couple of stops. That gave us as much confidence as anything knowing we could handle that.”

Thomas started the second half hot with a rebound basket and a three to put OSU back up 40-37. But Kansas scored six straight on a Tharpe layup, alley oop to Withey and a layup by Releford to put the Jayhawks up 43-40 with 15:54 left in the game.

Kansas later had a four-point possession as Young made 1 of 2 free throws. The Jayhawks grabbed the rebound and McLemore had a layup, was fouled and made a free throw to complete a three-point play. KU led 49-45 with 12:58 left.

Scott then made a pair of free throws and Thompson hit 1 of 2 to cut the KU lead to 49-48 with 11:47 left. But the Buckeyes were mired in a field goal slump of epic proportions. They went just over 10 minutes without a field goal, missing 12 straight. Kansas led 53-48 after Withey made a turning bank shot with 10:47 left.

Williams broke the drought as he took a Thomas feed and hit a turning bank shot to cut it to 53-50. But Releford had the answer with a three from the top of the key for a 56-50 lead with 8:00 left.

Deshaun Thomas led OSU with 16 points, 6 rebounds

The lead went to eight at 60-52 after McLemore stuck a 15-foot jumper that bounced around and fell in with 6:08 left. Craft missed a three and had a turnover on a pass on OSU’s next two possessions. McLemore then made it 10 as he caught an inbounds lob and jammed it for a 62-52 lead with 5:22 left.

Smith then missed a three and Johnson was fouled at the other end. His two free throws made it 64-52 with 4:36 left.

Smith snapped OSU’s field goal drought of five minutes with a jumper from the top of the key to cut it to 64-54 with 2:16 left. A Smith layup cut the lead to 65-56 with 1:18 left and a Craft three – finally – made it 67-59 with 44 seconds left.

Johnson made a pair of free throws, but Ross answered with a layup to cut it back to eight at 69-61 with 33 seconds left. McLemore then threw it away for KU, giving the Buckeyes possession under their own basket. But Thomas, fittingly, airballed a wide open three on the inbounds play.

Ross made 2 of 3 free throws to cut it to 70-63 with 20 seconds left. Scott completed a three-point play to make it 72-66 with 15 seconds left. But Withey was fouled on the inbounds play and made two free throws for a 74-66 lead and ice it.

“We kept talking about that – they’ve got to go down, keep defending and stick with it,” Matta said. “Hopefully we can knock down one or two and then roll from there. But we just never caught that break to cut the lead down.”

Also Notable

* OSU shot 30.8 percent from the floor – its lowest percentage in a game since shooting 26.4 percent last year in a home loss to Michigan State (58-48) on Feb. 11.

* Beginning with the loss at Duke on Nov. 29, Craft has not hit on just 14 of his last 51 shots (27.5 percent) over his last seven games. He also had an uncharacteristic four turnovers.

“We came out and battled,” Craft said. “We didn’t back down. Basketball is a simple game: get stops and put in the ball through the net. We didn’t do that tonight. It comes down to getting tough, making stops when we need to and making shots when we need to.”

Matta said he would have liked Craft to take the ball to the basket more.
“I have a couple days to think about it,” Matta said. “I have a couple of days to think about it. He played banged up in the second half. Most guys would have been over at OSU Medical Center. He had a hip pointer from when he got hit very hard.

“I’ve got faith in him.”

* Williams may be pushing for more time after holding his own against Kansas’ talented 7-footer Withey.

“It’s in him (to play like this every game),” Craft said of Williams. “He is growing and just needs more experience. He needs to continue to be consistent in these big game situations. He can come in and make an impact immediately.”

Matta added, “I thought Amir played really, really well today. Just across the board, he finished around the basket. He rebounded both offensively and defensively. He understood what we were doing defensively. We will need him down the stretch here in the next 19 or 20 games or whatever we’ve got.”

* Matta said the Buckeyes would be off through Christmas day and will resume practice on Wednesday (Dec. 26).

“I asked Santa for Christmas to improve our jump shooting,” Matta joked. “I changed my list.

“When we get back here in a couple of days, we need to put a spotlight on ourselves and continue to get better.”

* This was the 11th meeting in the all-time series between OSU and Kansas. KU now leads the series at 8-3. KU has won the last six games in the series, including two games last season. In the first game of the home and home series in Lawrence, Kansas prevailed 78-67 last December. Kansas won the rematch in an NCAA national semifinal game (64-62).

Ohio State's three previous wins in the series took place from 1983-96. The Buckeyes won in Lawrence, at St. John Arena in Columbus and in overtime in a neutral site game at the Rainbow Classic in Honolulu, Hawaii.

This was Kansas’ second visit to Value City Arena. The Jayhawks pulled out a 69-68 win on Dec. 23, 2000, at VCA.

* Against the current alignment of Big 12 teams, Ohio State is now 25-24 overall. Matta is 5-7 during his career vs. Big 12 teams.

* Matta’s OSU teams are a combined 38-46 against ranked teams in his nine years with the Buckeyes. OSU is 0-2 against ranked teams this year with their loss at then-No. 2 Duke on Nov. 29 (73-68). In 13 years as a college head coach, Matta’s teams are a combined 47-55 against ranked teams.

In the 15 years OSU has played at Value City Arena, the Buckeyes are 31-16 against ranked teams. That includes an 11-5 mark against top-10 teams. OSU had won its last four home games against top-10 teams. That includes a win over then-No. 10 Wisconsin in 2010-11 and wins over No. 7 Florida, No. 3 Duke and No. 7 Indiana last year.

* Against nonconference opponents, Matta’s OSU teams are a combined 117-22 in his nine years. That includes a record of 76-3 at home against nonconference teams, including wins in their last 39 such games before this loss.

* Ohio State owns a 144-13 home record during the Matta era. The Buckeyes are 62-4 in Columbus over the past four seasons. As a college head coach, Matta’s teams are a combined 197-19 at home.

* The Buckeyes will continue with the seventh game of their eight-game homestand by hosting Chicago State (1-10) next Saturday (4:30 p.m., BTN). OSU then opens Big Ten play Jan. 2 against Nebraska (6:30 p.m., BTN).

* Click here for the box score from OSU-Kansas.

Click here for Dave Biddle’s What We Learned column on this game.

Click here for a pregame OSU-Kansas video with the starting lineups and the video played on the VCA video board.

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