Jayhawk Defense Stymies Buckeyes

By Kyle Rowland on December 22, 2012 at 9:12p

The defining characteristic of the Kansas Jayhawks is defense. Never has that trait been more on display than during the 40 minutes Kansas spent inside Value City Arena on Saturday. 

The FreshmanAn introduction to Ben McLemore.

In defeating seventh-ranked Ohio State, 74-66, the No. 8 Jayhawks didn’t just get a signature road victory, but they also had one of the most impressive defensive performances of the season. The Buckeyes shot 31 percent from the field for the game and just 25 percent in the second half. Ohio State made all of nine field goals in the final 10 minutes and had a 10-minute stretch when it had zero.

“We came out and battled,” Ohio State point guard Aaron Craft said. “We didn’t really back down. All in all, basketball is a simple game. Get stops and put the ball in the bucket. We didn’t do either tonight and Kansas did both.”

Easy enough.

It wasn’t a mystery that Kansas possessed all the necessary ingredients to limit Ohio State’s still-gelling offense. The Jayhawks haven’t allowed a team to approach the 40-percent field goal percentage barrier since losing to Michigan State in November. The catalyst of that has been seven-foot center Jeff Withey, whose ability to block shots has demoralized opponents and contributed to their shot selection.

That was evident on Saturday, as Withey blocked a shot early in the game. It would be his only block of the day, but the seed was already planted. Ohio State converted on only 12 of its 34 two-point baskets. The low percentage was due in part to settling for jump shots that wouldn’t fall.

“There was one point in the second half where I turned to the bench and said, 'Let’s call a play where we can score,'” Ohio State head coach Thad Matta said.

On Saturday, not even a backdoor would have done the Buckeyes much good.

Ohio State’s go-to guy on offense, Deshaun Thomas, was stifled much of the day. Kansas admitted that he was their main target on defense and it showed. He faced double teams most of the game and only shot the ball 11 times. Three of his four field goals were three-pointers, but Thomas finished with only 16 points.

“Travis (Releford) played great defense on Deshaun Thomas,” said Withey, who tallied 14 points and 10 rebounds. “We focused on him. We knew he could go off for 30 easily. It felt like it was a really tough game. It was intense. (Kansas head) coach (Bill) Self is all about defense, and we showed that today. We’re tough and we shut down their best scorer. Everyone did their job.”

Shannon Scott finished with a career-high 15 points, but he was the only other Buckeye in double figures. Kansas had four players who finished with more than 10 points.

Ohio State’s poor shooting, which became the theme of the game, started from the outset. Kansas jumped out to an early six-point lead in the first eight minutes of the game while Ohio State was busy missing shots.

“We had great looks at the basket, but they weren’t falling,” Thomas said. “Kansas (started) knocking down shots, and that’s when the game changed. They didn’t do anything special.They just played hard. We had wide-open looks.”

For a brief moment, those shots finally started falling. With the snap of a finger, the Buckeyes found their footing. A 14-0 run put them in front by eight points. Then Amir Williams, who helped neutralize Withey’s presence down low, picked up his second foul of the first half with six minutes left.

Go in the basket!Home court advantage was non-existent.

Once again, Ohio State found itself with its back against the wall. The Jayhawks ended the half on a 14-4 run, taking a two-point advantage into the locker room. The final minute eerily mirrored the closing minute of the Final Four game between the two schools.

“They went on their run and we have a good group of veterans who’ve been in tough situations,” Withey said. “We bounced back. It was tough. Coach Self was getting after us for sure. We talked to the young guys and had them settle down a little bit. It all started with great defense.”

Indeed. Ohio State was just 2 of 7 during the final six minutes of the first half, while Kansas made five of its final seven shots. 

“That was the best stretch for us,” Self said. “Nothing was going right, but somehow we weathered the storm. We did it by throwing the ball inside. That gave us as much confidence as anything.”

In the first half, the Jayhawks outscored Ohio State, 20-10, in the paint. The final tally was 34-22. But it also had an advantage in star power. As Kansas was busy removing Thomas as a scoring threat, the Buckeyes could not do the same with Kansas redshirt freshman Ben McLemore.

He scored 22 points, three shy of a career high. When the Jayhawks ventured to Atlanta in November to take on Michigan State, the atmosphere and opponent intimidated McLemore. He must have gotten that out of his system, because he appeared very comfortable in his surroundings on Saturday.

“McLemore is as good as any player in the country,” Matta exclaimed.

McLemore had seen Kansas beat Ohio State twice in person last season, including from the Louisiana Superdome stands at the Final Four. He wasn’t able to be on the floor due to being a redshirt. He more than made up for lost time on Saturday. Self said during the week he had a good feeling McLemore would play great. The magic 8-ball concurred.

“Ben is an unbelievable talent,” Self said. “But he’s still figuring out how to play. When he figures out how to put himself in (positive situations), he’s going to be terrific.

Said McLemore: “I’m still out here learning. I’m definitely getting ready and getting better each and every day.”

Despite squandering their lead late in the first half, the Buckeyes came out like gangbusters to begin the second, scoring the first five points. But as they had done all day, the Jayhawks answered by going on a 6-0 run.

Then Ohio State did the complete opposite of answering – it didn’t even pick up the phone. The next Buckeye field goal came with 8:14 left, when Williams made a layup.

Asked if they could remember a time in a game or practice when they went so cold, Ohio State’s players were literally left speechless. Craft finally spoke up and delivered a half-hearted “not really.”

During that time, Kansas build a five-point lead that would grow to 12. Ohio State never got closer than six in succumbing to Kansas for the third time in the past two seasons.

“I’m not sure we have anybody’s number,” Self said. “The first time we played them Sullinger didn’t play; the second time they really controlled the game. Today is probably the best we’ve played against Ohio State. Other than a five-minute stretch, that was a pretty good 35 minutes out there.”

Still, Ohio State would gladly take another rematch in the Georgia Dome.


Comments Show All Comments

sir rickithda3rd's picture

there were several points in that game that frustrated me. however, all in all they did battle they were there on loose balls and offensive rebounds. furthermore, they were getting descent looks at the bucket. it just seems that they dont have very many guys that can shoot.

mark may wins douchebag of the year... again

RedQueenRace's picture

furthermore, they were getting descent looks at the bucket. it just seems that they dont have very many guys that can shoot.

Exactly.  I lost count of the number of times dribble penetration with a kickout or good ball movement found someone to clank a wide-open shot.  Shannon Scott driving into the lane and elevating to shoot an airball from about 12-14 feet summed up the day.
I attributed none of this to Kansas's defense other than Withey preventing them taking it to the hoop and the ability to focus on DT as they didn't have to respect a single other player on the floor.
If those shots had gone down folsk would have been talking about how well they found the open man instead of how they were "settling" for jump shots.  With Withey there to clean up any drives to the hoop and the ineffectiveness of the big men in the post there were no other options.

bhardy22132's picture

Honestly it was not their defense that did anything. They picked up A LOT of key offensive rebounds on us that we should have defended. Plus there was some key turnonvers that we had that didnt help us. And A LOT of wide open shots were missed in the second half. We gave this game away. This is still a pretty young team trying to find its identity and i think they will do it before the tourney but right now it is unbearable watching us shoot ourselves in the foot while we have the talent to roll these teams.

RedQueenRace's picture

Add getting beat on the the same in-bounds play 3 times in one half for 7 easy points to your list.

gwalther's picture

We need a consistent second scoring option... 

Class of 2008

Buckeyes_Terrapins's picture

OHa. We need a consistent first scoring option. 16 points? That's not close to good enough to be considered a good performance by someone so highly regarded as Tank.

gwalther's picture

They can load up on him because we don't have anyone else. He was doubled inside, which meant he had to run off screens, or start from the three point line more often than he usually does. When he drove, Kansas collapsed on him. Tank is more than fine as a number 1, provided we had a legit number 2. 
I severely missed seeing Diebler on the court today. #cornerthrees

Class of 2008

GABuckeye's picture

It's difficult for him to score when as soon as the ball touches his hands he's doubled.  I actually agree and disagree with one of the posters above.  The Kansas defense wasn't that impressive in the sense that the Buckeyes got A LOT of open looks from 3, but I disagree because Withey in the paint prevented the guards from driving to the hoop (for the most part).  They just do not have any guys that can shoot.  Lenzelle Smith Jr has the ugliest shot I've ever seen for a D1 basketball player.  Aaron Craft isn't any better in year 3 than he was in year 1, Amir Williams isn't any better (offensively) in year 2 than he was in year 1, and Ross looks tentative. Someone needs to let the kid play.  I agree with what Alex said a couple weeks back about Amir - he's just soft.

gwalther's picture

Craft's shot is uglier than LSJ's.

Class of 2008

RedStorm45's picture

Amir played pretty well yesterday, heck of a lot better than Ravs.

Devin1024's picture

Seemed to me that half way through the second half they started shooting nothing but the three ball. I thought had they taken some higher percentage shots they would have been in much better shape toward the end of the game to pull out the win.  Although only hitting 25% in the second half, even an easier shot may not have worked for them. Kansas has our number right now. 
Go Bucks!

Tim's picture

Craft looked awful aside from a few nice defensive plays, and he is really getting exposed since he has to play a bigger role offensively this year.  He missed several wide open 3s that could have kept us in the game.  Kansas missed so many free throws and looked like they wanted us to win, but we couldn't make anything.  Someone else besides Thomas has to be able to make some shots.

stark county buck's picture

Thad needs to do what's best for the team and insert Scott and Ross into the starting line-up.  Craft is just not getting it done, and Thompson is primarily a defensive player the same role that Smith plays.  There is no way that they will contend for a national championship much less the BIG 10 championship.  If Craft is such a great leader then he can be a leader coming off the bench. The way he handles his demotion could possibly galvanize the team and serve as a wake up call to the rest of the players.  Coach K, Jim Boeheim (excuse my spelling) and Coach Cal would all switch it if what they had been doing wasn't working. 

mclovin's picture

Agreed on Scott but not Ross. Best lineup would be Scott, smith, Thompson, Thomas, Williams. Ross kid of disappeared tonight in the first half. Love craft but he has been surpassed and ravenel is not high level d1. Williams has a ways to go but is the future and is in no way worse than ravenel. Ravenel's atrocious uninspired def probably cost is the game. Poor 2nd half shooting didn't help 

Buckeye Chuck's picture

This has been a problem with Matta's weaker teams (i.e. the ones without an All-American talent in the lineup): when "pass the ball around for a while and chuck a three" isn't working, there's typically not a Plan B. 
This team will make March Madness because everyone that isn't lousy does, but this game basically ends the interesting part of the season. We're probably a fourth-place team in the conference, and as low as sixth wouldn't shock me. (And yeah, I know I'm going to be downvoted for pessimism, but who have we beaten?) Kansas's recent history is that it doesn't win big games on the road, which means they're either a lot better than folks expected, or the 2012-13 Buckeyes aren't truly a big game.

The most "loud mouth, disrespect" poster on 11W.

luckynewman13's picture

I think we all just need to take a step back. We've had legit national title contenders the last two years, is it so horrible to imagine that maybe this year we are going through some growing pains?
I admit that I am not the biggest basketball fan so I don't know that much, but it seems our fanbase has placed the same pressure on our bball team that we place on our football team, and I don't think Thad deserves that. yet.
At the same time, I understand that fan pressure often leads to great programs, but I think these guys deserve a break. I still think we are still in the middle of a golden age for Buckeye basketball.

RedStorm45's picture

Take away our 1 good stretch and we got out scored by 22 in 35 minutes.  Pathetic.
We were at one point 6/10 from behind the arc, then we went 2 for the final 21.  No reason for lenzelle to be our leading shot taker at 3/13.

oregonianbuckeye's picture

Yes, the KU game was rough. A couple of observations.
1) Fronting the post was a bad idea, and hurt us in the first half. Matta adjusted and played behind in the second half, which worked for the most part.
2) We got wide open shots.
3) We missed wide open shots.
4) Thompson and Scott are much better shooters now then they were when they arrived. It is totally conceivable that they continue to progress, and are better shooters in March than they are now.
5) Lenzelle Smith was awful on both sides of the court. Craft is getting a lot of grief these days (some of it I agree with), but Smith couldn't hit a shot, and did a really poor job trying to defend McLemore. 
6) Craft is the clear leader of this team and will and should be for the rest of the season. Thomas is the best player, but he has a different style of leadership. The team played hard, especially in the half court defensively. On offense, like Craft, they tightened up and missed shots. That's okay, we are still relying by and large on 4 sophomores to play a ton of minutes.
7) Teams take on the character of their coach and their leader. 
8) The last nba draft projection I read had McLemore top 5 and Withey top 10. With four seniors starting, Kansas is a better team than tOSU right now. This doesn't mean that we are terrible, but they are better.
9) Self is a really good coach too. The inbounds plays killed OSU, mostly because Kansas ran specific plays to hurt switching defenses. We gave up 9 points off inbounds, which is rare for this team. I attribute that to really excellent preparation on the part of Kansas. Matta could have changed defensively philosophies on inbounds, but OSU has played this type of inbounds defense almost exclusively for as long as he's been there. 
10) Amir is coming along. Scott is playing really well and has seen a significant increase in minutes.  I trust this staff.

RedStorm45's picture

Thompson shot 3/10 (after making his first 2 threes).  And craft had how many turnovers to start the game?
Other than a couple dumb fouls and not being able to secure a pass or loose ball, Amir played pretty well, much better than Ravs.

RBuck's picture

I noticed that Thomas and Smith never really got squared up and hurried their shots; sometimes for no reason at all. Craft had good shot selections and good mechanics but couldn't hit the water if he fell out of a boat.

Long live the southend.