Closer Look: Kansas Downs Ohio State in Columbus

Twitter recap: KU overcomes 19 turnovers, shoots 51% to sink OSU. McLemore shines, Jayhawks D stellar. Second half slump dooms cold-shooting Buckeyes.

Big Ben fast on the rise. The red-shirt freshman is playing himself into a top-five pick in June’s NBA draft, if he wasn’t one already. Arguably the best shooting guard in a college basketball landscape light on standout 2-guards, McLemore was the best player on the floor Saturday in a game that featured popular preseason All-American Deshaun Thomas. He’s a deadly 3-point shooter and quite possibly the best athlete in the college game, with steps on his ladder Lawrence, Kansas hasn’t seen since J.R. Giddens. How’s this for the kid’s first-ever road game, against a top-10 opponent no less? 22 points, six boards and the highlight slam of the night.

December 22, 2012; Columbus, OH, USA; Kansas Jayhawks guard Ben McLemore (23) reacts to a foul against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Value City Arena. Kansas won the game 74-66. Mandatory Credit: Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

Dominating D. In a game that pitted two of the top man defenses in the sport against one another, Kansas’ stood out as a cut above. The Jayhawks clamped down on the perimeter, sparing shot-swatting maestro Jeff Withey, who racked up a pair of questionable foul calls midway through the game, for most of the afternoon. Bill Self’s team dared Ohio State to beat it from the perimeter. The Buckeyes acquiesced to no avail, finishing 8-of-31 from downtown.

Better balance. Last year’s overachieving Jayhawks skied all the way to the championship game with an overly focused offense centered upon two players (Thomas Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor accounted for 46-percent of Kansas’ points). With the two collegiate stars no longer in the fold, this year’s version has taken on a much more balanced look. All five Kansas starters average at least 8.5 points per game, while freshman Perry Ellis, backup point guard Naadir Tharpe and Jamari Traylor have provided a jolt in unique roles off the bench. Saturday was no different. Four Jayhawks finished in double figures and Kevin Young, the lone starter who scored fewer than 11 points, added 10 boards and a trio of pretty assists to his line.

Second Half Slumping. Ohio State missed 15 of its first 17 shots from the floor in the second half and 21 of its first 25. Aaron Craft went cold (i.e., shot at his usual clip), Lenzelle Smith unraveled and Sam Thompson, after a quick start, disappeared for the rest of the evening. These offensively challenged Buckeyes are prone to such lulls. When they come against teams of Kansas’ ilk, forget about it.

Heavy Legs. This wasn’t the first time Ohio State appeared to hit a wall in the second half. With a short bench last season and no true point guard on the roster, the Buckeyes drove Aaron Craft into the ground. Deshaun Thomas, the heart and soul of Ohio State’s attack this year, could be the next victim. Thad Matta will have to ride his junior star hard to avoid offensive droughts like the Buckeyes had tonight. The upshot? Potentially overworking Thomas as he did Craft last season.

Offensively inept. Drive, kick and miss a three. There’s a crude analysis of the Ohio State offensive attack minus Jared Sullinger and William Buford. The scarlet and silver can’t shoot and has no one to go inside to anymore either. Short of Deshaun Thomas playing hero ball at an astronomically high level, the Buckeyes lack the sufficient offensive talent necessary to beat top teams. Shannon Scott and Sam Thompson can change that at some point this season, but they’ll have to prove it themselves on the court.

Ownership. Kansas dealt Ohio State its third loss in one calendar year, each in a different venue. The Jayhawks have won at home, on the road and on a neutral floor in New Orleans at the Final Four. Only Michigan State has beaten the Buckeyes even twice in the same span (and Sparty, too, got three cracks). Thad Matta can only tip his cap and call Bill Self his daddy.

Topics: Basketball, Kansas Jayhawks, Ohio State Buckeyes

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