Thirty seconds into KU’s trip to Value City Arena, Elijah Johnson dropped the ball off to freshman Ben McLemore, who splashed a long three for the game’s first points. McLemore would go on to score 22 and look like the best player on a floor loaded with stars, but he was hardly the only Jayhawk to show up in the 74-66 KU victory.
Jeff Withey had a ten-point, ten rebound double-double and starters Elijah Johnson and Travis Releford also reached double figures in a big road win for a Kansas squad that traveled for a rematch with an opponent they also beat in last year’s Final Four. Kevin Young was the only starter not to eke into double figures, but his ten rebounds against a sizeable Buckeye team were definitely valuable for a team in a pressure-packed road game against a top ten opponent.
Ohio State hounded the Jayhawks into multiple first-half turnovers, led by forward Sam Thompson’s three steals, but they could not keep up the pace in the second half. DeShaun Thomas led the Buckeyes with 16 points, and guard Shannon Scott exploded for 15 as a change-of-pace option, but OSU simply didn’t get enough offense out of its starters in this game.
Kansas, with McLemore eligible to play after sitting out last season, had a few more weapons than Ohio State could muster. The game had to provide a crucial gut-check for Thad Matta’s troops as they prepare to enter a loaded Big Ten race against teams that can match or exceed the talent Kansas put on the floor in this game. With a shooting mark of 30.8% from the floor staring Matta in the face, it’s clear that more scoring options, and better defense, will be crucial points of focus in the weeks to come.
Eric Angevine is the editor of Storming the Floor. He tweets @stfhoops.