LAWRENCE, Kan. - Thad Matta knew that his team was going to be in for a tough road game against Kansas with or without Jared Sullinger. Ohio State's pre-season All-American star wasn't able to go however and despite hanging close for most of the game the Buckeyes had too many self-inflicted wounds and fell from the ranks of the unbeaten with a 78-67 loss.
William Buford was as cold as cold could be in the first half but finished the game with a team high 21 points (17 in the second half) while DeShaun Thomas scored most of his 19 points in the first half. The Jayhawks were led by Player of the Year nominee Thomas Robinson who had 21 points, most from point blank range with no Sullinger to clog up the middle.
Ohio State never led in the game but closed the margin within six points on multiple occasions. Down the stretch the Buckeyes managed to cut it down to four after a Thomas roller went down to make it 62-58. But every time the Buckeyes punched the Jayhawks counter punched and most times the answer was a three-point shot with Kansas connecting on 9-17 from distance.
Matta was concerned about how his team would respond on the offensive and defensive glass and up until the closing minutes of the game his team led the turnover battle and held the advantage on the offensive glass by a 12-5 margin. No Buckeye had more than five boards however.
Sullinger's replacement, Evan Ravenel had a cold day from the field going 2-7 and eventually fouled out with four turnovers. The loss of Sullinger and foul trouble to the JUCO transfer meant more minutes for true freshman Amir Williams who ended up with two points on the afternoon.
The Ohio State big man missed his second straight game with back spasms (missed the UTPA game as well) but is hoped to be back in the lineup on Wednesday when Ohio State takes on South Carolina Upstate. His 19 points a game was truly missed as it seemed that Ohio State never really found a rhythm in the game. One of the most surprising stats is that Ohio State outscored KU in the paint, 26-24. But Kansas was able to go to more of a jump shooting game in the second half and had 20 points in the paint in the first half when it needed to get the high percentage baskets.
Aaron Craft was only credited with a pair of steals but was a major force on defense and Ohio State forced 18 turnovers of the Jayhawks but on the downside committed 15 of their own. Craft had 11 points on the day and was the only other player to reach double figures in scoring.
Kansas shot 58-percent from the field and was 65-percent from the field in the first half of the game. Ohio State was held to less than 39-percent from the field and just couldn't seem to make the big shot when it needed to punctuate a run.
Ohio State's bench is going to need to make more of an impact the rest of the way of the season with only four points from the non-starters. That will be alleviated when Sullinger returns but on Saturday it wasn't able to pick up any of the slack.
The Buckeyes go back on the road next weekend to South Carolina but won't find the game in Columbia (S.C.) as intimidating of a venue as The Phog. With any luck the Buckeyes next trip on the road will have Sullinger back in the lineup and putting up All-American numbers.