Ohio State traveled to Lawrence, Kansas for their first away game of the season at historic Allan Fieldhouse and suffered a 78-67 loss against the Jayhawks. The Buckeyes were led by William Buford’s 21 points, 17 of which he scored in the second half, while Deshaun Thomas led the Buckeyes in the first half and ended with 19. Thomas Robinson was the big name for the Jayhawks in this one, picking up 21 points and 7 rebounds for the game.
For the second game in a row, Jared Sullinger was held out due to the back injury suffered against Duke 2 weeks ago. The Buckeyes started Evan Ravenel in his place much like they did a week ago against Texas Pan-American.
Unsurprisingly, the Buckeyes came out very poorly against the Jayhawks. Considering this was their first away game, the fact that the Buckeyes only managed to score two points on free throws should not come as a big surprise. OSU looked completely discombobulated on offense, and was probably unable to properly communicate through the incredible crowd noise. Kansas also deserves plenty of credit early on for having a tough, effective defense that prevented the Buckeyes from having too many open looks.
Craft was the first Buckeye to put a shot through, hitting a three pointer with 15 minutes left in the first half. That finally seemed to get the Buckeye offense clicking a little, and allowed them to close the gap in the score. Unfortunately, after managing to close the gap to only 3, the Jayhawks charged out on a 7-0 run to put the Buckeyes down by double digits for the first time in the game.
As a whole, the game was an incredibly sloppy affair. Neither team was able to do a great job holding onto the basketball; pileups of players on the court quickly became a common occurrence. Regularly players would attempt to drive the lane only to lose their handle on the ball and have it wind up in the hands of an opposing player.
Deshaun Thomas was the unquestioned scoring leader of the first half. Two straight three pointers, split by a Kansas trey, gave the Buckeyes some energy on the offensive end. They were able to turn that momentum into a nice pass into the lane to Amir Williams for a slam. Williams was asked to come into the game fairly early, and a lot was demanded of him as he had to fight off Thomas Robinson and 7-footer Jeff Withey down low.
Kansas called a quick timeout after the short Buckeye run to make some quick adjustments. After the break, the Jayhawks were able to regain their ten-point lead. The Kansas offense looked so potent because they were busy shooting an unbelievable 77.8% (14-18) from the floor and 75% (3-4) from three through the first three-quarters of the first half. There is a lot you would have to do wrong in order for an opponent to overcome that kind of shooting. Give the Buckeyes credit, particularly Deshaun Thomas, for being able to keep it close enough for the Bucks to have a chance to recover.
Another young Buckeye was asked to contribute in the first half as Aaron Craft was charged with two fouls and Shannon Scott relieved him. The Buckeyes suffered a lot of foul issues with Craft, Buford, and Smith all picking up a pair, most of which came on charges drawn by Jayhawks players. Give credit to Bill Self for coaching up his frontcourt players to pick up the charge so well.
The first half was a perfect storm for the Kansas Jayhawks. While shooting nearly 70%, the Buckeyes were shooting an atrocious 33.3% (8-24) from the floor. The only thing keeping the Buckeyes close was their three point shooting – an impressive 50% (4-8) shooting effort led by Thomas’ 3-5 shooting from beyond the arc. Thomas also deserves love for his job defending Robinson in this game. Robinson averages 12 rebounds per game, but Deshaun managed to successfully box him out enough to prevent him from picking up a single rebound the entire half.
The Bucks made a surprising defensive adjustment coming out of the half. Instead of having Deshaun Thomas guard Thomas Robinson man-to-man, Matta had Evan Ravenel switch over and take the 6-9 forward. The move paid off early as Robinson was forced into a travel on his first possession.
Unfortunately, the other big adjustment the Buckeyes made to try to deal with missing Sullinger cost them big on the perimeter. With Sully out, the Buckeyes had to collapse the lane a bit to try to make up on defense inside. The Bucks were forced to leave the perimeter less defended than they would prefer allowing Kansas to drop trey’s from the outside and reestablish their double digit lead with a 9-2 run.
It was everything the Buckeyes could do to keep the Jayhawks from running away with the game. It seemed that whatever OSU did Kansas would respond with a one-up, and that it was only a matter of time before things would get out of hand. Buford, though, wasn’t about to just let it happen and finally started to put in the energy and effort we expect from him. The other Buckeyes seemed to respond to it and began to play with more confidence.
Amazingly, despite every effort from Kansas, the Buckeyes eventually managed to close the gap to four points. A lot of the sudden turnout had to do with the Jayhawks suddenly feeling the need to rush their offense, making extremely poor decisions on the offensive end. The Buckeyes were able to take advantage of Kansas’ unfocused play and close the gap in a significant way.
Bill Self was forced to take a timeout and attempt to calm his team down. As before, the tactic worked again and allowed the Jayhawks to improve their lead again to eight. Despite everything the Jayhawks could do, they simply could not put the Buckeyes away in the later minutes of the game. Only when the Buckeyes finally missed a couple shots with under a minute left to go did Kansas finally secure the win.
Kansas ended the game shooting 58.3% (28-48) from the floor and 52.9% (9-17) from three in an excellent display of offensive prowess. The Buckeyes responded with a poor 38.7% (24-62) and 29.4% (5-17) respectively. The shooting stats were the biggest factor in the game, and the primary reason the Jayhawks were able to secure the win, as the teams came up even in many of the other critical stats.
This game was great experience for the Buckeyes. They were forced to learn to play a good team without Sullinger. They had to do it away from home in front of a hostile crowd, and they had to figure out how to dig deep and find passion and energy despite the scoreboard. As a whole the Buckeyes played extremely well with the sole exception being the poor shooting for most of the game. A lot of that poor shooting rests entirely on the shoulders of Kansas’ defense, and they deserve credit for being able to put such an excellent effort together.
The Buckeyes will next face South Carolina-Upstate in Value City Arena on Wednesday, December 14th. You’ll be able to see that game on the Big Ten Network.