News, notes and quotes on No. 13 KU's matchup with Long Beach State today at 8 p.m. (CT) in Allen…
Scouting Ohio State
Ohio State returns two starters from last season's team, which went 34-3 and 16-2 in the Big Ten.
The Buckeyes (8-0) are off to a dominant start thus far with a scoring margin of +29.3 (No. 1 in nation). Other than their 81-74 victory over Florida in OSU's second game this season, the Buckeyes' closest game has been a 22-point win (85-63) over Duke on Nov. 29, a Blue Devils' team which beat KU, 68-61, in the championship game of the Maui Invitational on Nov. 23.
OSU is led by sophomore forward Jared Sullinger, a National Player of the Year candidate. He's averaging a team-high 19.1 points and 10.3 rebounds, while shooting 62.2 percent from the field and a team-high 83.3 percent at the free-throw line.
He's followed in scoring by senior guard William Buford (16.0 ppg, team-high 12 three-pointers), sophomore forward Deshaun Thomas (12.9 ppg) and sophomore guard Aaron Craft (9.8 ppg, team-high 5.5 apg). Other players in the mix include junior forward Evan Ravenel (5.4 ppg.), sophomore forward J.D. Weatherspoon (5. 1 ppg, 15-of-21 from the field) and sophomore guard Lenzelle Smith Jr. (5.1 ppg, 5.0 rpg).
Ohio State is averaging 82.5 points per game and allowing just 53.2. The Buckeyes are shooting 50.9 percent from the field, 33.3 percent from three-pint range, and 67 percent at the free-throw line. They're holding opponents to 38.2 percent shooting and 31.6 percent from beyond the arc, while outrebounding foes 39.4 to 29.1 boards per game.
OSU is also averaging 19.3 assists and 9.0 steals per game while forcing 19.6 turnovers per contest. The Buckeyes take care of the ball, only committing 10.9 turnovers per game.
One of the most talented teams in the nation, Craft (the Big Ten's Sixth Man of the Year last season), Buford and Sullinger are on the Wooden Award Top-50 Preseason List. OSU is one of just three teams to have at least three players on the prestigious list.
Coach Thad Matta is 198-57 in eight seasons at Ohio State and 300-88 in 12 years overall.
SELF ON THE BUCKEYES
KU coach Bill Self knows OSU will be KU's toughest challenge to date, and perhaps the entire season. He was quite impressed after seeing the Buckeyes beat Duke on Nov. 29.
"They dominated the game," Self said. "I thought they were so impressive on both ends. If we struggled with Duke, and they handled Duke, we're going to have to play very well to put ourselves in a position to have a good shot to win late. I think the Buckeyes are really talented, but they do it differently. They do it through a low-post presence, they do it through execution, they do it through not fouling and controlling the defensive glass."
While Thomas isn't the team's marquee player, Self said he is a huge key to the Buckeyes.
"I think the guy that kind of makes their offense, even though they're terrific anyway, but the one guy that can mess you up defensively as much is Thomas (6-7, 225) because he's a stretch four man," Self said.
Of course, Sullinger is OSU's go-to man. While he sat out the last game against Texas Pan-American on Dec. 3 with back spasms, the super sophomore is expected to play Saturday.
Self has great admiration for him.
"Not knowing him personally, it seems to me that he's a better kid than he is a player," Self said. "Everybody loves to be around him, he's got personality and he's got bounce. He's unselfish. When you look at his stats, in seven games, he's only taken 74 shots. That's around 10 per game and he's arguably a leading candidate for National Player of the Year, so he's very unselfish."
Self said he's "changed his body" and is a thinner and more versatile player than he was last season, where he played almost exclusively in the paint.
"Now he is more of a guy that can play in-and-out more than he did last year," Self said. "He's a terrific player. He's one of the better players that's played in our building in recent memory."
GETTING IT DONE ON DEFENSE
As good as OSU is offensively, Self is even more impressed with the Buckeyes' defense. OSU ranks No. 8 nationally in scoring defense and No. 5 in rebound margin (+10.3).
"They only give up about seven offensive rebounds per game and their field goal percentage defense is 38 (percent), which is a really good stat," Self said. "They do a lot of good things there, and Craft, to me, leads them defensively. He's a really good defender and he's smart defensively."
BUFORD COMING UP BIG
Junior swingman Travis Releford will have his hands full guarding Buford. Buford, the 13th-leading scorer in school history (1,552 career points), is one of just 16 players at OSU to reach 1,500 points and 500 rebounds. He also needs just 68 more assists to join Jim Jackson, Evan Turner and David Lighty as the only Buckeyes with 1,000 points, 500 rebounds and 300 assists.
But what he does best is put the ball in the basket.
"The guy can score," Self said. "If I'm not mistaken, he has a good chance to go down as Ohio State's all-time leading scorer. There have been some really good players and some hard-rocking guys who have played there, so that tells you a lot. He's shooting the ball well above 40 percent from three right now, he can post, he can slash and he's got an in-between game. He's about as complete of an offensive big guard that we'll play against this year."
PROTECT THE BALL
KU (6-2) will have to protect the ball better to beat OSU. The Jayhawks committed 22 turnovers in their last game against Long Beach State on Tuesday, which led to 31 points for the 49ers.
"If we handle that ball like that, they (Buckeyes) can pick the score," Self said. "Let's just call it like it is. They will pick the score in our own building if we handle the ball like that. ... It will be a jailbreak if we turn the ball over against Ohio State. They won't just be running out and scoring two points. They will be making plays that are ESPN Top 10 Plays. We certainly have to handle and pass it and maybe think the game a little bit better on Saturday."
KU leads the all-time series (dates back to 1965) with Ohio State 5-3. This will be the first meeting between the two schools since the 2000-01 season, when KU won, 69-68, in Columbus, Ohio, on Dec. 23, 2000.
The Jayhawks have won three straight against the Buckeyes.
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