The Bucks and Jayhawks met for the third time in a little over a year, but it resulted in the exact same result as before. A tough, hard-fought battle ended with the Buckeyes coming up short by a final of 74-66. Kansas’s Ben McLemore led all scorers with 22 for the game, and was joined in double digits by Elijah Johnson (13), Jeff Withey (12), and Travis Releford (11). The Buckeyes were led by DeShaun Thomas’s 16 and Shannon Scotts 15.
It was very clear through the first half that the Buckeyes were struggling with the height of the Jayhawks. The Buckeyes spent the majority of the half looking for long and mid-range jumpers rather than attacking the basket. Defensively, while Ravs and Williams did a decent job limiting Withey’s touches, they seriously struggled when Withey managed to get the ball. At the half, the game was a lot closer than it actually felt like it should be.
The Buckeyes struggled in the second half hitting baskets from the floor. In fact, with 9 minutes to go in the game, the Buckeyes had shot 2/17 in the second half all told. The only reason they remained in the game was a combination of free throw shooting along with some poor shooting and decision making from Kansas. Unfortunately, it wasn’t to last. When the Buckeyes finally began to collect a couple field goals, Kansas also finally began to take control. Before the Buckeyes could blink, Kansas had a double digit lead. OSU used the typical trick of fouling to stretch the clock, and began to bring the lead under control, but it was far too little too late.
This is yet another good learning lesson game for a team that is still working to find the answers in the shooting game. What defines this team is the fact that they have lots and lots of guys that could be a hot scorer on any given night. Unfortunately, they don’t have a guy that is a hot scorer on every given night. Nor do they have a dominant presence in the paint to easily help open up looks outside. This is a problem that will plague this team all year, so don’t expect a quick fix.
1. Defense. Sure, Kansas shot 53% from the floor. The defense still played a great game, slowed Kansas down, and kept the game close even despite a 10 minute shooting drought in the second half. Just because the other team shoots well does not immediately mean the defense played terribly. It does, however, mean that Kansas attacked the paint, where they knew they would be particularly successful. Compare OSU’s 32 attempted 3 pointers to Kansas’s 11. Kansas may have gotten lots of close looks at the basket, but they had to work for each and every one of them.
2. Shannon Scott. Scott is stepping up in a big way. He’s playing fantastic basketball; aggressive defense, and smart, lethal offense. We desperately need this moving forward this season.
3. Defense continues to fuel the offense. When did the Buckeyes do the best? When their defense was busy making Kansas look incompetent. It took some serious adjustments from Bill Self to get his offense clicking again, which allowed them to finish on a 14-4 run.
1. Aaron Craft decision making/ball control. I’m really starting to worry about Craft, who seems to be forgetting some of the things that made him so dangerous in the last two years. Is it perhaps that he’s focusing on his shot too much in practice, and so other things (e.g. passing) is falling by the wayside? He’s still a good player, but he’s not living up to expectations.
2. Williams ability to hold on to the basketball. He is completely incapable of gripping the basketball with any strength at all. He needs to practice his ball control, especially in the slop beneath the basket. It is unbelievable how many times he functionally handed the ball to Kansas.
3. Interior defense. It certainly had its moments, particularly in Ravs and Williams limiting of Withey’s effectiveness on offense. However, there were plenty of egregious breakdowns on the inside, particularly when the Jayhawks distracted OSU’s interior players with Withey and looked to McLemore for the points.
The Buckeyes will next face Chicago State on Saturday, December 29th. You’ll be able to see that game at 4:30 PM eastern time on the Big Ten Network.