Ohio State is Looking to Solve the Jayhawk Riddle

By Kyle Rowland on December 21, 2012 at 10:00a

The day before Ohio State played host to Winthrop, Deshaun Thomas, Sam Thompson and Thad Matta each fielded questions about Saturday’s opponent – No. 8 Kansas. Thomas said before the game that Ohio State was excited about playing the Jayhawks. After the Buckeyes escaped with a 10-point win over four-win Winthrop, Thomas said maybe Ohio State was paying too much attention to Kansas. 

Jared Sullinger's career came to an abrupt endOhio State was left dazed and confused in New Orleans.

The Jayhawks played on the same night and defeated Richmond handily. It was Kansas’ third win of more than 25 points on the season. It enters Saturday’s showdown 9-1, the lone loss coming against Michigan State at the Georgia Dome.

But even the Jayhawks, despite the large margin of victory, had their sights set on Columbus, Ohio, not the Richmond Spiders.

“Let’s be serious,” Kansas head coach Bill Self said. “The season starts Saturday.”

Both teams are eager to play one another – for very different reasons. Ohio State is attempting to avenge not one but two losses to Kansas last season – the first and last of an otherwise exceptional year of basketball. Loss No. 1 came in the regular season in Lawrence, while the second was a gut-punch in the Final Four. Ohio State led by 13 before the Jayhawks stormed back in the second half.

“Our guys know that Kansas ended our season last year,” Matta said. “I think they know the storied history of the program and what we walked into when we went (to Allen Fieldhouse) last year.”

Kansas, meanwhile, will get its biggest road test of the season. A loss to Michigan State, in a game Kansas led throughout, was an indicator of how good the Jayhawks are and can be. But a road game in a venue the home team has won 39 consecutive games against non-conference foes will be an even better barometer.

“I feel like that’s the only thing we haven’t done,” Kansas guard Elijah Johnson said. “We’ve played on a neutral floor. We’ve played at home. We’ve played great shooting teams. We’ve played good driving teams. I feel like the only thing we haven’t done is go to somebody else’s house and try to bring the pain.”

Kansas center Jeff Withey sure brought the pain to Ohio State in New Orleans. The seven-footer had eight rebounds and seven blocks in the Jayhawks’ 64-62 win. But whether he and his teammates can respond in a hostile environment remains the unanswered question.

Kansas has been nearly unbeatable in Allen Fieldhouse since Bill Self arrived in Lawrence prior to the 2003-04 season. The Jayhawks have won 151 of their 158 home games during Self’s tenure. Included in that plethora of wins was a 69-game home win streak over two-plus seasons. Kansas is currently in the midst of a 28-game home win streak and has won 97 of its past 98 games at Allen Fieldhouse.

"At least we saw all this flat land"Ohio State didn't feel much better in Lawrence. 

But all seven of the Jayhawks’ losses a season ago came on the road or at neutral sites. The same can be said for their lone loss this season. 

“It’ll be good for us to go up there and see how tight our huddle is, see if we can focus and see if we can spend the energy in the building in our favor and find out how tough we are,” Self said. “I’m really looking forward to it.

“Our guys have so much confidence playing at home, but to me it’s obviously much tougher on the road. You don’t play at home during the NCAA Tournament, so we need to figure out how to do it.”

Ohio State has interest in finding out how it stacks up against the nation’s elite. The team thinks it learned something about itself in a close loss at Duke, a game Ohio State led for a majority of the night. But several of the Buckeyes’ weaknesses were exposed against the Blue Devils. Now Ohio State will find out if the improvement exhibited in five consecutive walkthroughs over mid-major opponents translates versus a top-10 team. 

“We’ve played good teams, but we really haven’t played that good of competition after Duke,” Thomas said. “Now we’re going to try to show and let people know that we can play against these types of competitive teams. We’re trying to come out against Kansas and play hard and play to our best ability.”

That’s something Ohio State has struggled to do over the past 12 months. Last December’s game at Kansas featured an Ohio State team playing without Jared Sullinger because the big man was suffering from a back injury. Even without him, Ohio State hung close with the Jayhawks before losing by 11.

With Sullinger playing in the Final Four rematch, the Buckeyes controlled the first half until a second-half malaise engulfed the team.

But in different style games, one factor remained the same: Kansas shot extraordinarily well and Ohio State was at the opposite end of the spectrum.

Last season’s results are still fresh wounds for Ohio State’s coaches and players. It’s one reason why Matta needn’t be reminded about Kansas’ ability. 

“I don’t know where Kansas is ranking-wise or anything like that,” he said. “But I know this: they’re a heck of a basketball team.”

So good, in fact, that Kansas has occupied Ohio State’s mind for more than a week – or some 12 months. A winter storm is supposed to roar through the heartland on Friday and Saturday. As they say, revenge is best served cold. 


Comments Show All Comments

bhartman13's picture

Damn I want to see the Buckeyes get revenge tomorrow!!  I am a fan of the Jayhawks but love tOSU so after the heartbreaking Final Four loss I have been waiting for this matchup.  I think the Bucks have the edge playing at home but Kansas may have more overall talent.  I really look for the vets like DT, Craft, and Lenzelle to have big games and lead tOSU to another non conference home win.  It seems like both teams have been waiting for this game despite having to deal with other opponents so I expect a 40 minute battle and a close finish. 
Buckeyes 77-71

Buckeyes_Terrapins's picture

That Final Four loss last year is the most depressed I've ever been after a sporting event. It still hurts every time I think or read about it. If they can't be fired up and bring it at home for this game, they might as well just not play the rest of the season.

bhartman13's picture

Wow that was a very tough loss to Kansas last year but you took it extremely hard!!  I would say the BCS National Championship loss to Florida to blow an undefeated 2006 season hurt me much worse and then the basketball Buckeyes with Oden and Conley who lost to Florida in that title game hurt worse than last years Final Four. 
I think the Buckeyes show up tomorrow and get the rowdy crowd going early!

Ohio Guy in Jersey's picture

I have no sense that the Buckeyes will fail to bring their "A" game tomorrow. Whether that will be good enough will be very interesting to see. I think it will, but they've got to prove it on the court.
Assuming Kansas takes Thomas away from the offense the way Duke did, I want to see how he reacts and if Smith can step up. Ross' minutes will depend on his willingness to defend tomorrow, so we may see more of Sam Thompson. I don't expect Withey to have as many blocks simply because OSU won't run through the post this year the way they did with Sullinger. But I'd like Ravanel be aggressive on the boards. And who knows...good Amir might show up too. 

DJRoss926's picture

For me, the OSU-Kansas Final Four game is tied with the loss to Kentucky the year before as the biggest gut punch loss. 
The 2011 Final Four teams were incredibly beatable and I have a feeling that Buckeye squad would have gone the distance.
Damn you, Kentucky.

tennbuckeye19's picture

The Final Four game with Kansas was pretty depressing. OSU dominated the first half and I was feeling so good about things. I mean, I wanted them to play Kentucky in the Championship. And then in the second half, you could just feel the momentum swing in Kansas's favor as the game slipped away. I remember turning the TV off and just sitting on the couch in a daze for a good while. 
I'm hoping for a good game tomorrow with a solid home crowd despite the weather. I'm not sure OSU will be able to take down the Jayhawks, but I'll be cheering my heart out for them from here in Tennessee.

yrro's picture

Nowhere close to as sad as I was after the Kentucky loss the year before. Last year's team was really good, but the team before them was *great*.

tennbuckeye19's picture

Well sure, the Kentucky game was sad, but that was a Sweet 16 game. When I think of that game, I think about what if Buford's last shot had gone in? And you're right, that was a special team, but if you've watched enough basketball, you know that the "great" teams don't always make it as far as they should in the tourney. That team was poised for a Final Four run of it's own, but it just wasn't in the cards.
But honestly, the Kansas game hurt more to me because it was in the Final Four and OSU was so close to getting back to the Title game.

AC1972's picture

I was at VC Arena lst time Kansas rolled into town.  It was the loudest bball game I had ever been to, until Duke this year.
I think that if the Schott can get load like that again (or Duke last year) then tOSU has a great chance. 

toad1204's picture

Tickets: Check
Warm Jacket for walk to the Schott from Varsity Club:  Check
4x4:      Check
Mastercard for the party after:  Check
Surprising the old man with his ticket tomorrow:  Priceless

Nothing like dancing on the field in 02...