Columbus, Ohio — Ohio State University men’s basketball coach Thad Matta lavished praise on Kansas University’s program during a media session Friday in snowy Columbus.
“Our guys have great respect for Kansas,” said Matta, whose No. 7-ranked Buckeyes (9-1) take on the No. 9 Jayhawks (9-1) at 3 p.m. Central time today in Value City Arena. “Not only this team, but teams they’ve had the last 100 years.”
Of KU center Jeff Withey, Matta said: “There’s not as many great shot blockers as there used to be, and he’s probably the best in college basketball. I don’t think there’s anything you can do. You’ve got awareness of where he is and that sort of thing. He’ll probably block a couple. You’ve got to keep playing, just keep playing.”
Of freshman guard Ben McLemore, Matta noted: “He is a complete player. He appears to be very athletic. He has kind of got everything he needs in terms of being a high-level college basketball player.”
And of KU coach Bill Self, Matta said: “He is a guy who just wins. I have the utmost respect for him and the job he’s done over the course of time. He is in an elite crowd in terms of coaches. His assistants have gone on to be head coaches.”
OSU junior point guard Aaron Craft on today’s match-up: “One of the main things is who is going to be the tougher basketball team. We have to find a way to match or be better than their intensity and toughness. That’s what Kansas basketball is about. It’s what we have to focus in on and try to do.”
Travel: The Jayhawks flew charter to Columbus and arrived at 6 p.m. Friday after experiencing no problems with snow.
Young vs. Ohio State: Entering his senior season at Kansas University, Kevin Young was best known for his 14-point, four-rebound outing against Ohio State on Dec. 10, 2011, in Allen Fieldhouse.
The 6-foot-8, 190-pounder from Perris, Calif., hit six of eight shots and also played tight defense on Buckeye forward Deshaun Thomas, who scored 19 points off 7-of-14 shooting.
“I remember him hitting two threes. It’s what I remember most,” KU senior center Jeff Withey said of Young’s play in the Jayhawks’ 78-67 victory over an Ohio State team playing without the injured Jared Sullinger. Sullinger, who is now in the NBA, did play in KU’s 64-62 Final Four semifinal victory over the Buckeyes.
“Kevin can do that almost every night. We saw him do that a couple games ago. He had 16 (points),” Withey added.
Young scored 16 points off 8-of-9 shooting in a 90-54 rout of Colorado on Dec. 8 in Allen Fieldhouse.
“Kevin will be huge for us because he’ll be guarding their best player (Thomas; Travis Releford likely will guard him as well),” Withey said, referring to a key match-up in today’s game. “We need him to put pressure on the other guy and get him in foul trouble, go hard and be annoying on defense. He can do that. We all feel real comfortable with him in the lineup and I think our starting five is a lot better with him in there.”
Of Young’s performance a year ago versus Ohio State in Lawrence, Self said: “He made shots. He stuck a couple threes and was active. He’s a good fit for us.”
Nice arena: Self, who coached at Illinois for three years, on 19,049-seat Value City Arena: “The atmosphere is great. It’s a professional arena. It’ll have 20,000 people in there. It’ll be juiced just like our building is. They’ve got students right behind the bench.”
The series: KU leads the all-time series 7-3, including two KU wins last season. The Jayhawks have won five straight in the series, which dates to 1965. The Jayhawks won the first two meetings: 81-68 on Dec. 23, 1965, in Columbus and 94-70 on Dec. 5, 1966, in Lawrence. The two teams played twice in 1983 to start a three-game OSU-victory run against Kansas. The Buckeyes won 64-61 on Jan. 2, 1983, in Kansas City, Mo., and 79-74 on Dec. 22, 1983, in Columbus. In 1986, OSU edged KU 79-78 in overtime in the Rainbow Classic in Honolulu. The two schools’ next meeting was 1997 in the Rainbow Classic, a 69-56 KU win. Before the KU win in 2000, the Jayhawks defeated the Buckeyes 80-67 on Dec. 16, 1999, in Lawrence. ... Self is 5-3 all-time versus Ohio State. ... KU is 43-24 (64.2 percent) against ranked competition in the Self era. In the last six seasons, the Jayhawks are 33-14 (70.2 percent) versus ranked foes.