Saturday, December 22, 2012

Jayhawks brace for revenge-minded Buckeyes

Kansas center Jeff Withey pumps his fist as Ohio State players William Buford (44) and Deshaun Thomas (1) show their frustration during a Jayhawk run in the second half.

Kansas center Jeff Withey pumps his fist as Ohio State players William Buford (44) and Deshaun Thomas (1) show their frustration during a Jayhawk run in the second half.



Kansas center Jeff Withey pumps his fist as Ohio State players William Buford (44) and Deshaun Thomas (1) show their frustration during a Jayhawk run in the second half.

— Revenge figures to be on the minds of Ohio State’s basketball players, coaches and fans entering today’s 3 p.m. nonconference clash against Kansas University in 19,049-seat Value City Arena.

Remember, the Jayhawks (9-1) of the Big 12 Conference, knocked off the Buckeyes (9-1) of the Big Ten twice a year ago — 78-67 on Dec. 10, 2011, in Allen Fieldhouse, and, more importantly, 64-62, in a Final Four semifinal on March 31 in New Orleans.

“I’m sure they’ll be ready,” said KU coach Bill Self, whose Jayhawks enter as the No. 9-ranked team in the country; OSU is No. 7. “I don’t know if our fans remember how ready we were playing Georgia Tech after they knocked us out of the Final Four. It’s going to be a fabulous atmosphere.”

KU fans should have no trouble recalling one of the wildest home games in the Self era — a 70-68 overtime victory over Georgia Tech’s Yellow Jackets on Jan. 1, 2005. It was a game that avenged a 79-71 Elite Eight loss to Tech in 2003-04, Self’s first season at KU.

“You put yourself in games like this to find out more about your team,” Self said. “Other than Michigan State, we have not had a close game.”

The Jayhawks fell to the Spartans of the Big Ten, 67-64, on Nov. 13 on a neutral Georgia Dome floor in Atlanta.

“We’ve not had to make plays in the last three to four minutes to determine the outcome of the game,” Self said.

KU has won eight straight games, with only the Oregon State game (84-78, Nov. 30) a single-figure victory margin.

Kansas has won its last three games — over Colorado, Belmont and Richmond — by 36, 29 and 28 points, respectively.

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

KU faces a Buckeye team that has defeated Albany, Rhode Island, Washington, UMKC, Northern Kentucky, Long Beach State, Savannah State, UNC Asheville and Winthrop. Its only loss is a 73-68 decision to Duke on Nov. 28 in Durham, N.C.

OSU coach Thad Matta sees this match-up every bit as tough as the one against top-ranked Duke.

“I think just from what I’ve seen of Kansas in their last few games ... they are probably playing as well as anybody in the country right now,” Matta said. “They are high-powered, explosive. They are a lot like we want to be. Their defense generates a lot of their offense, and they are very explosive in that regard.”

The Buckeyes have two of the best players in the country — one known for offense and one for defense.

Deshaun Thomas, a 6-foot-7 junior from Ft. Wayne, Ind., averages a team-leading 20.4 points (45.9 percent shooting, 40.9 percent from three) and 6.9 rebounds a game. Aaron Craft, a 6-2 junior from Findlay, Ohio, averages 9.1 points with 48 assists against just 13 turnovers in 10 games.

“Aaron wants to do the right thing from the standpoint (that) each game will be a little bit different, if we need him to shoot more or pass more,” Matta said of the floor general who scored 11 points (4-of-11 shooting) with three assists and two turnovers in the Final Four loss to KU and 11 points (again 4-of-11 shooting) with six assists and three turnovers in the loss in Allen.

“Definitely, he is national defender of the year,” Matta said earlier in the week on Tim Brando’s national radio show. “That’s already mailed in. I can guarantee you that one. I have got some great defenders, and none of them ever get credit for it. I’m campaigning for Aaron right now.”

KU’s Elijah Johnson will have to be alert going against Craft, who had just three steals in the two games versus KU last year.

“The key is you can’t dance with him. If you are aggressive and get up next to him and you try to back out of it, that’s when he goes after it,” Self said.

“Tyshawn had a good handle last year, and Craft picked him twice just by Tyshawn relaxing a couple times and not being aggressive. You’ve got to be in attack mode against him. If he feels you are a sideline-to-sideline dribbler, then I think he is at his best. We’ve got to try to get our shoulders past him, which is very difficult to do,” Self added.

Thomas enters as a first-team preseason AP All-American.

“We are looking forward to the game. It will be a big game for us, but we can’t have the start we had for this game,” Thomas told the Columbus Dispatch after Tuesday’s 65-55 home victory over Winthrop. OSU led just 31-30 at halftime.

“Thomas is a great scorer. Craft is a very aggressive ball defender. We’ve got to go out there and play,” KU freshman guard Ben McLemore said.

Thomas is joined by one other double-digit scorer — 6-4 Lenzelle Smith, Jr., who averages 11.5 points and 5.2 boards a game.

“They can shoot the ball. They have a lot of veterans. Aaron Craft is very good. Thomas can shoot the ball,” KU senior Jeff Withey said of the Buckeyes, who average 78.6 points a game and allow 57.2. KU averages 77.8 points and allows 58.5.

“They have role players who play their role, and it helps them win,” Withey added. “They are a tough team, physical. They play that Big Ten style. They try to bully you. They do all that really well. We’ve got to come ready, and hopefully we’ll put up a good fight and hopefully win.”

As far as handling a hostile atmosphere, an arena with revenge in the air, Withey said: “We always say it’s fun. There’s nothing better than somebody yelling at you and kind of shutting them up. Just talking to Ben and Perry (Ellis) and the younger guys, (we’ll say), ‘They are going to be yelling at you, cursing at you. As soon as you quiet the crowd, there is no better feeling so just go out and play hard.’”


jayhawkboogeyman 5 years, 4 months ago

“Definitely, [Kraft] is national defender of the year,” Matta said.

I think Withey will have something to say about that.

Dirk Medema 5 years, 4 months ago

I had to reread that a few times to make certain he wasn't talking about Jeff.


The crazy thing about it is that not only is it motivation for Withey to have a strong game, but also for EJ to not allow the NDPOTY runner-up to get the stats to even create an arguement.

kufaninmo 5 years, 4 months ago

idk why, but it's really easy to view OSU as the 'enemy'. either way, i can't wait to see ku whoop dat azz.

Chris Bruning 5 years, 4 months ago

I hope Withey swats one so damn hard into Crafts funny that would look with them rosey cheeks.....

Eliott Reeder 5 years, 4 months ago

We'll see how our boys respond to Jeff and EJ both getting into early foul trouble. I think Naadir will play a pivotal role with back-up minutes and Perry will need to step up as well. KY, the Afroglide buckeye-killer will be super jacked and have another great game against them!!!

Marcia Parsons 5 years, 4 months ago

I'm worried about fouls, too. Wonder who the refs will be.

mejayhawk 5 years, 4 months ago

I don't know when I've seen a player have more fun playing basketball than KY. We all know about his energy on the floor. But he's the same way when he's not in the game. If you haven't noticed yet, pay attention today to who's the first player to explode off the bench when KU makes a great play. Also, he doesn't get nearly enough credit for his interior passing... He and Trav are both outstanding "glue guys."

Dirk Medema 5 years, 4 months ago

1 foul per game to foul trouble seems like a stretch to me, but maybe.

KansasComet 5 years, 4 months ago

AW3 could work his way into the rotation permanently with a good performance today. OSU does not have anyone to match up to McLemore, Johnson, and Releford in transition. If we are allowed to play, then we should be fine. The reason we lost to MSU is that roles were not defined in crunch time. I believe we have at least 3 players that can get it done in the clutch, Releford driving to the basket, Johnson's clutch shooting, and McLemore....well (everything)! We also have Withey to knock down free throws late in the game. The reason Craft is not so effective this year is that flopping is discouraged. He is a master at pulling jerseys and flopping. Also, he is a professional at working the officials, he even applauds their calls from time to time. What Craft does not do well is defend quick aggressive guards. His two go to moves are the reach in if you back pedal against him, and the flop. He is limited as fas as jumping, but he does get good position. The only guard I worry about him taking advantage of is Tharpe, if he stands and dribbles the ball, Craft may pick his pocket. Tharpe seems ready to play now, so hopefully he will be fine. Deshaun Thomas runs hot and cold, lets just hope his hots are not too hot. This is the type of game that we need, to kind of see where we are at, before we start Conference play.

Brianna Zaleski 5 years, 4 months ago

Great comments and breakdown. I found yours and Self's scouting report on Craft to be very intriguing. I hope the guys listen up. Coach (and u Comet) have detailed some reasons why Craft is successful and some ways to beat him. Players like Craft are usually very crafty (pardon the pun) and if u force them to play ball straight up w/ out catering to their craftiness, they usually end up looking pedestrian.

KansasComet 5 years, 4 months ago

Thanks, I studied Craft quite a bit last year, not just the KU games. He is not the same since the flop has been taken away from his game. I enjoyed reading your comments as well.

Jack Wilson 5 years, 4 months ago

Comet - I agree on the concerns on Tharpe. And getting AW3 in the game, on the road, in a hostile environment, could help pay bigger dividends down the road regardless of whether he actually shoots well. Excellent point on the transition game, and our apparent advantage there.

Thad Daugherty 5 years, 4 months ago

Does anyone have a stat on how many of the teams OSU has played went to the tourney last year. Their schedule looks like it might need some frosting. Just sayin....

Gary Wirsig 5 years, 4 months ago

Don't have the stat, but their schedule strength will pick up significantly in a couple of weeks!

Ken Sedgwick 5 years, 4 months ago

This game will have nothing to do with how good we are. It will be decided by number of mistakes.

Chris Bruning 5 years, 4 months ago

uuuuuuhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh i don't even know what to say to that bunk a$$ comment.....

Ken Sedgwick 5 years, 4 months ago

KU is a good team ( top 10 ). Ohio St is a good team ( top 10 ). The team who makes the fewest mistakes will win. Think first.

Jack Wilson 5 years, 4 months ago

Went back and looked at the boxscore from the final four game. A few stats that stood out .. EJ had 10 rebounds; Aaron Craft played all 40 minutes; we outrebounded them 41-30; and we held OSU to 33.9% shooting.

I see two alternative offensive scenarios that we need today .. either 1) some good shooting from 3 range; or getting Perry going inside (say 16 points, in that range).

With that, my first thought on the key offensive player is neither a main 3 point shooter, nor an inside guy -- Releford.

So, either some hot 3 shooting or Ellis gets going inside, and Releford being at the top of his offensive game ... and we're good.

Probably the best thing going into a game like this is our defense. It's consistent, it's repeatable, it dictates flow, and it keeps you in nearly every game.

KU 69 OSU 65

Kye Clark 5 years, 4 months ago

I hope we don't count on a good shooting game from 3. Typically, shooting percentages go down when shooting away from home. Different backgrounds and such. Won't be as bad as the Final 4 games or the Mich. St. game in those cavernous domes, but my guess is we'll still hit a lower percentage than our season average. Something to look for is in the first couple of possessions if BMac spots up from 3 from the corner (as he has the past few games) and ends up clanking a couple, will that through him out of rhythm for the entire game. We've seen his rhythm derailed by foul trouble this season.

Jack Wilson 5 years, 4 months ago

ict: You're too logical.

How about EJ - 3/6; McLemore - 4/9; AW3 - 2/3; Releford 1/2?

Kye Clark 5 years, 4 months ago

We get that kind of shooting and the rout will be on!

Gene Jackson 5 years, 4 months ago

This game is THE game of the holidays. Jayhawks throughout the country will be watching in groups. Go 'Hawks. Can't wait.

REHawk 5 years, 4 months ago

Mr. Matta throws out another "probably" in his press declarations here. I wonder if, when the heat rises almost unbearably sometime late in the second half of play, he calls a timeout to tell his squad, "Look, guys, it's time to quit lofting so many futile 3s. Get the ball into the paint and challenge that skinny tall kid. Go for the bunnies, and we'll pull out this win...probably!"

FearlessJayhawk 5 years, 4 months ago

Here is the deal. If we can pull this one out, it will be Katti, bar the door come March.

dynamitehawk 5 years, 4 months ago

Man as I get older, I feel like my grip on urban slang is waning... I had to look up Katti... And I was taken to rural Nepal where perhaps Katti is a transcendental state where only good things happen... Then I saw the urban dictionary definition and in a simple epiphany I realized it is one in the same. Good word.

bradynsdad 5 years, 4 months ago

Tyshaun Taylor with I believe a new NBA record. Least amount of time spent in the D-league. Nets sent him down yesterday morning, he played last night and dropped 32 pts. Called backup this morning. Gotta love that kid.

mejayhawk 5 years, 4 months ago

Great news. Love his toughness. Gotta believe he can find a team that will utilize his gifts

REHawk 5 years, 4 months ago

bradynsdad, thanks for the splendid update. Most KU fans well know that TT can't be harnessed. I wish him the best as he adjusts to pro ball. He is playing behind one of the 3 or 4 best guards in the league; so his time will have to await opportunity. Sounds as though he is staying prepared!

mejayhawk 5 years, 4 months ago

This has probably been mentioned before here but... Did anyone else's jaw drop when they realized the Hawks are starting four seniors? In 2012? A year after losing several starters from a Finals team? How is that even possible?

Jack Wilson 5 years, 4 months ago

Q: "How is that even possible"

A: We started four juniors last season and had one off the bench.

Sorry, couldn't resist.

Curtis Stutz 5 years, 4 months ago

Just so hard to see KU coming out with a win, so much motivation for Thomas and Craft today. I was there for the GTech game, of course the revenge was that much bigger 'cause they didn't actually beat KU in the Elite Eight, the refs called Miles for a travel for being run over while holding the ball, dropping it before he fell, and somehow a travel call. So that was important to me for KU to win, never led until OT and still won.

Can KU keep these guys off the offensive glass. You know Williams, Ravenel, DT, Thompson and Ross will be attacking the o-glass. Also can Young/Ellis/Traylor get DT into any kind of foul trouble or can EJ get Craft into foul trouble. My best guess is no, can't keep them off the glass, can't get 1 of those 2 into foul trouble, will take an amazing effort in all around defense and big time offense from BMac, TRele and W to get this done. It's not impossible, just unlikely. I'd give our guys a 1/3 shot at a win, but I just want to see the determination and heart that we all saw in the tourney last year come out today and carry through into conference play.

Dirk Medema 5 years, 4 months ago

I wouldn't expect tOSU to get anyone in foul trouble on their court.

kranny 5 years, 4 months ago

This game will be decided at the foul line. KU will attack and get fouled. If KU makes em they'll win if not no dice.

ParisHawk 5 years, 4 months ago

I know you New Worlders are sick of this same old question over and over again, sorry.

Since this game is on CBS, my usual ESPN service will not work in Europe. Does anyone have a good link for CBS overseas?

Thanks much in advance.

Jim Dickerson 5 years, 4 months ago

Paris-- Firstrow sports. eu is ok, but I would suggest that you download their free HD app. Bigger screen and fewer pop-up ads.

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