LAWRENCE, Kan. — Here are a few quick thoughts from Kansas' 78-67 victory over Ohio State Saturday at Allen Fieldhouse.
Overview: Thomas Robinson scored 21 points and Tyshawn Taylor had a career-high 13 assists to lead No. 13 Kansas. Deshaun Thomas had 19 points for the Buckeyes, who played without leading scorer and rebounder Jared Sullinger, who missed his second straight game because of back spasms. Kansas, which improved to 7-2, never trailed and led by as many as 11 points. Ohio State fell to 8-1.
Kansas shot a blistering 58.3 percent from the field and made 9 of 17 attempts from 3-point range. Ohio State, meanwhile, connected on just 38.7 percent of its shots.
Turning Point: After trailing by as many as 11 points midway through the second half, Ohio State pulled within four points of the Jayhawks when Deshaun Thomas' jumper made it 52-48 with 5:37 remaining. Kansas, though, responded with a 9-3 scoring run that gave the Jayhawks a 71-61 lead and momentum they would never relinquish. Robinson scored five points during the march and Travis Releford scored four.
Star of the Game: Robinson and Taylor had gaudy stat lines (although Taylor also had seven turnovers), but the hero for Kansas was obscure forward Kevin Young, a Loyola Marymount transfer who entered the game averaging 3.9 points. Young scored 14 points off the bench on 6-of-8 shooting and made two huge 3-pointers. He was also a pest defensively, as his long arms altered a handful of Ohio State shots and clogged the Buckeyes' passing lanes. Kansas has been looking for another spark from its thin, inexperienced bench. Perhaps Young will be it. He certainly was Saturday.
What the win means for Kansas: The victory may not carry as much weight since Ohio State was without Sullinger. Still, make no mistake, this win will be a huge momentum boost for a Jayhawks squad that needed a grind-it-out victory against a good team heading into Big 12 play. And, yes, even without Sullinger, Ohio State is still a very good team. There were multiple times in the second half when the Buckeyes threatened to go on a run and eventually take the lead. But the closest they ever got was within four, 62-58, with 5:47 remaining. That's because the Jayhawks continued to answer baskets by Ohio State with big buckets of their own. Whether it was Releford slashing into the lane for a layup in traffic or Young tipping in a teammate's miss, the Jayhawks came through time and time again when it mattered most.
What the loss means for Ohio State: This loss won't hurt Ohio State. Or at least it shouldn't. The Buckeyes played a relatively close game with a top-15-caliber team despite the absence of Sullinger, the leading candidate for national player of the year. As long as Sullinger regains his health, the Buckeyes are still one of the top three teams in the country. A lot of good could result from Saturday's loss, because it forced players such as Thomas, Evan Ravenel and Amir Williams into pressure situations where they had to perform. The experience will help them down the line.
Up Next: Not many teams in the country have played as tough of a nonconference schedule as Kansas, which has faced Kentucky, Georgetown, Duke and Ohio State — not to mention an underrated Long Beach State squad. Things will ease up a bit now for the Jayhawks, who will play Davidson, USC, Howard and North Dakota before opening Big 12 play Jan. 4 against Kansas State at home.
Ohio State's last four nonleague games are against South Carolina-Upstate, South Carolina, Lamar and Miami. Even without Sullinger, the Buckeyes should be able to win those games.