A double-double from veteran center Jeff Withey and floor-leading performance from rookie guard Ben McLemore fueled Kansas in the top-10 matchup against Ohio State, 74-66, Saturday afternoon at the Value City Arena.
The highly-anticipated meeting pitted No. 9/8 Kansas (10-1) and No. 7 Ohio State (9-2) against each other for the third time in two seasons, including the Final Four meeting that sent the Jayhawks to the 2012 National Championship game. The result was to be expected as the two battled through a pair of big runs during a close first half before Kansas built the double-digit lead in the final frame to snag the win in its first true road game of the season.
After watching his Jayhawks play OSU twice from the bench last season, McLemore was outstanding in his first shot at the Buckeyes. With all eyes on the rookie starting his first true road game, McLemore responded with a three-pointer to open the game and stayed hot all afternoon to lead all scorers with 22 points on an 8-for-17 shooting effort that included three three-pointers. The Saint Louis, Mo., native also snagged six rebounds and during a foul-heavy game, was not whistled for a single foul.
In contrast, Withey was called for a season-high three fouls, but it did little to dampen his game. The senior center turned in 14 points and 10 boards for the double-double, while fellow senior Kevin Young also grabbed 10 rebounds to tie a career high. All four seniors were active in the win as guards Elijah Johnson and Travis Releford tallied 13 and 11 points, respectively.
The Buckeyes were led by junior forward Deshaun Thomas and sophomore guard Shannon Scott with 16 and 15 points, respectively. The pair were the only two in double-figures as Kansas held Ohio State to a season-low 30.8 shooting percentage, while the Jayhawks themselves shot over 50 percent for the fifth-straight game.
A pair of threes from sophomore guard Sam Johnson marked the only Buckeye scorer through the first media timeout, while the visiting Jayhawks received contribution from four different players en route to taking the early 11-6 lead. In fact, the only points OSU scored for the first seven minutes came from behind the arc.
Meanwhile, McLemore and Withey each connected on three of their first four shots to keep KU in front before taking a quick seat on the bench. A miscommunicated rebound resulted in a second-chance three for junior guard Aaron Craft, cutting the Kansas lead to three until sophomore guard Naadir Tharpe immediately answered with a three on the other end.
Tharpe’s three, however, sparked an 11-0 Ohio State run. When Thomas drilled his second three of the game, it shifted a 16-9 Kansas lead to a 24-23 KU deficit – marking the first time in eight games Kansas has trailed. Two more buckets from the Buckeyes prompted a timeout from the Kansas bench before a three from Craft expanded OSU’s lead to 31-23.
Trailing for the first time in more than a month, Kansas went to work. Four points from Young and a layup from Johnson powered a 7-0 run, whittling the OSU lead to a single point directly out of the final media timeout, 31-30.
Johnson drove through the middle of the lane to reclaim the lead with a layup and McLemore took it from there, scoring five-straight points to force an Ohio State timeout. Although Craft hit the front end of two free throws with four ticks on the clock, Kansas took a 37-35 lead to the break.
After ending the first half on a 14-4 run and handing the Buckeyes’ their first halftime deficit of the season, Kansas fended off a 5-0 OSU rally to keep the slim lead through the first media timeout, 43-40.
The second half took on a more physical feel when Withey, Johnson and Tharpe each found themselves strapped with three fouls apiece with more than 12 and a half minutes to play. Unfazed, Kansas found ways to make shots, shooting 50 percent (5-for-10) by the second media timeout, while holding the Buckeyes to two baskets in their first 14 attempts.
Despite shooting less than 20 percent, the Buckeyes stayed close through much of the second half. They had narrowed KU’s lead to three when Releford’s first three of the game came at a good time, handing the Jayhawks a slight margin of breathing room, 56-50.
As the five-minute mark neared, McLemore appeared more cool and collected as the game pressed on. He broke free for his own 6-0 run, propelling him past the 20-point barrier for the fourth time this season – resulting in the afternoon’s first double-digit lead, 62-52.
Ohio State’s shooting woes delved further as Kansas locked down to hold the home team scoreless for five minutes. A long jumper from junior guard Lenzelle Smith, Jr., broke the Buckeyes’ silence, but only to cut KU’s lead back to 10. The Jayhawk defense then forced back-to-back turnovers to thwart the last rally attempts.
Foul calls piled up in the waning moments, and KU responded with 10-for-14 showing at the line in the last 1:44 to close the book on Ohio State as Kansas headed home with the 74-66 win.
No. 9/8 Kansas will return home to host American University on Saturday, Dec. 29 at 7 p.m. to close out the 2012 calendar year.
NO. 9/8 KANSAS 74, NO. 7/7 OHIO STATE 66
Dec. 22, 2012
KU STARTERS (Season/Career Starts): C Jeff Withey (11/51), G Elijah Johnson (11/57), G Ben McLemore (11/11), F Travis Releford (11/53), F Kevin Young (8/8)
SERIES INFO: Kansas leads 8-3
ATTENDANCE: 19,049 (sold out)
· Made Kansas 10-1 on the season, giving the team a 10-1 record for the third time in the last four seasons and the fifth time in the 10-year Bill Self era.
· Gave KU its ninth-straight victory
· Made Kansas 1-0 in true road games and 4-1 in games away from Allen Fieldhouse this season
· Handed KU a 1-1 record against ranked opponents in 2012-13
· Improved KU to 8-3 all-time against OSU
· Gave Kansas its sixth-straight win against Ohio State
· Moved Coach Self to 279-54 at Kansas and 486-159 overall
· Made KU 2,080-807 all-time
· A three-pointer for junior forward Deshaun Thomas put Ohio State ahead, 24-23, marking the first time in eight games that the Jayhawks have trailed in a game. Thomas’ shot ended KU’s streak at 306:05-consecutive minutes dating back to the Nov. 15 win over Chattanooga.
· Kansas opened the game with a 9-6 lead, keeping the trend of fast starts this season. The Jayhawks are outscoring opponents 116-56 in the opening five minutes of their games this year.
· KU fell behind (31-23) due to an 11-0 OSU scoring run and immediately regained the lead (32-31) with its own 9-0 scoring run. In the last 6:13 of the first half, the Jayhawks outscored the Buckeyes, 14-4.
· The 37-35 first-half score in favor of the Jayhawks marked the first time this season that Ohio State has trailed at halftime. Prior to Saturday, OSU led Duke, 31-23, at the half before ultimately falling to the Blue Devils.
· OSU’s 6-for-13 from three-point range in the first half is just third time KU has surrendered six or more threes in a half (6 vs. Saint Louis, 2nd half; 8 vs. Chattanooga, 1st half).
· KU’s 3-for-8 (37.5 percent) from the free-throw line in the first half tied a season-low (vs. Chattanooga, 1st half). The Jayhawks went on to shoot a much improved 16-for-22 (72.7 percent) for the second half.
· Kansas finished the afternoon shooting 25-for-49 (51.0 percent), marking the fifth-straight game KU has shot 50 percent or better.
· Senior C Jeff Withey recorded his second-consecutive double-double (10 points, 10 rebounds) in the win, for his second consecutive, fifth of the season and 11th of his career. It marked the first time since vs. Oklahoma State (2/11/12) and at Kansas State (2/13) that Withey has recorded back-to-back double-doubles.
· Withey collected one block on Saturday to raise his total to 55 rejections on the year and 220 for his career for fifth all-time on the KU career blocks list.
· Withey has now recorded at least one block in 21-consecutive games.
· Withey grabbed his sixth rebound of the game – and 400th in his career – at the 5:17 mark in the first half. He finished the afternoon with 10.
· Freshman G Ben McLemore went 3-for -5 from three-point territory on Saturday. He has now connected on multiple threes in five-straight contests, going 14-for-23 (61 percent) during that stretch.
· For the sixth time in 11 games, McLemore scored KU’s first points. Saturday’s was a three-point bucket at the 19:26 mark.
· McLemore’s 22 points mark his fourth 20-plus scoring performance of the year and the 10th-straight time he’s scored in double-figures.
· Senior G Travis Releford, the Big 12 free-throw percentage leader, missed his first free throws in more than a month (5-for-6 vs. Saint Louis, 11/20). After going 2-for-4 from the line on Saturday, Releford has only missed four free throws all year (28-for-32).