Columbus, OH – A pair of national heavyweights mix it up on Saturday afternoon, as the ninth-ranked Kansas Jayhawks come calling on the seventh-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes.
Both team comes in sporting identical 9-1 records, and this is the first true road test of the season for Kansas. The Jayhawks' lone setback came against Michigan State (67-64) back on Nov. 13, and they have won eight straight since, six of which have come at home where they have actually won 28 consecutive games. KU will open Big 12 Conference play in Lawrence against Iowa State on Jan. 9.
Ohio State is 7-0 in Columbus this season, and the team recently extended its home winning streak over non-conference foes to 39 games with its 65-55 triumph over Winthrop earlier this week. The Buckeyes, who will lift the lid on the Big Ten Conference portion of their schedule against visiting Nebraska on Jan. 2, are in the midst of an eight-game homestand. OSU's lone loss of the season occurred at Duke (73-68) on Nov. 28, and the team has won five in a row since.
Kansas owns a 7-3 lead in the all-time series with Ohio State, and the teams met twice last season with the Jayhawks winning each time. The last was in the NCAA Tournament semifinals (64-62).
From a statistical standpoint, these two teams are pretty evenly matched. Kansas comes in sporting a scoring average of 77.8 ppg, hitting that number by shooting 49.1 percent from the field, which includes a 33.9 percent showing from 3-point range, while on defense yielding a mere 58.5 ppg with foes knocking down just 35.1 percent of their total shots, which encompasses a 30.8 percent effort from beyond the arc. KU is led by redshirt freshman Ben McLemore (15.9 ppg), and he is joined in double figures by Jeff Withey (14.1 ppg, 8.1 rpg) and Travis Releford (13.0 ppg, 3.3 apg). Withey logged a double- double consisting of 17 points and 13 rebounds to lead the Jayhawks to an 87-59 rout of visiting Richmond on Tuesday night. Kansas shot 59.0 percent from the field, as a total of four players scored at least 11 points, while the Spiders were held to 32.8 percent field goal efficiency and were done in by a devastating 46-26 deficit in the rebounding department.
Ohio State is netting 78.6 ppg on the strength of its 46.9 percent shooting effort, which includes a 38.7 percent showing from behind the 3-point line, while at the same time permitting just 57.2 ppg with foes connecting on only 37.2 percent of their total shots, which includes a 30.7 percent effort from long range. Add favorable margins in both rebounding (+7.2) and turnovers (+4.8), and it's not difficult to see why the team is off to such a fast start. Deshaun Thomas is far and away the most productive player on the roster for OSU, averaging 20.4 points and 6.9 caroms per contest, throwing his name into the hat for Big Ten Player of the Year honors. Lenzelle Smith, Jr. (11.5 ppg, 5.2 rpg) is the team's only other double-digit scorer at the moment, but two others are close to joining the ranks. Thomas scored 21 points and grabbed nine boards in the recent win over Winthrop, while Smith, Jr. turned in 14 points despite missing four of his five 3-point attempts. The Buckeyes only shot 38.6 percent from the field, with 15 of their 21 long-range bombs missing the mark. OSU committed just five turnovers in the game, while holding Winthrop to 38.0 percent field goal accuracy.