The Ohio State Buckeyes learned plenty in their December loss to Kansas. No doubt those lessons will come in handy for Thad Matta and company when they face the Jayhawks tonight in the second of two NCAA semifinal contests.
First and foremost Ohio State obviously learned they are not as good a team when 6-foot-9 All-American Jared Sullinger is not on the floor. Sullinger sat out the December contest because of back spasms. But, there are five other lessons that were learned and could prove valuable.
Kansas guard Tyshawn Taylor is turnover-prone.
Taylor helped keep Ohio State in the game in December. Sure, he had a season high 13 assists, but he also turned the ball over seven times. Hall-of-Fame Coach Bob Knight, who served as an analyst on ESPN's broadcast of the game, constantly made mention of how careless Taylor was with the ball. I got the uneasy feeling while watching a recent replay of the game that Knight was going to go into the Kansas huddle during a timeout and give the senior point guard a foul-mouthed tongue lashing. Ohio State guard Aaron Kraft is recognized as one of the best defenders in the country. No doubt he flustered Taylor in December and could do so again.
Elijah Johnson can stroke the three-ball
Maybe, Ohio State took Johnson lightly in the December game and sagged off him. The strategy seemed smart at the time. Johnson entered the game, hitting just two of his last 14 from behind the arc. But on a December day in Lawrence, he suddenly rediscovered his stroke and buried five of seven from beyond the arc — many of those were able to snuff out Buckeyes' runs.
Ohio State's William Buford can score in the post
Buford's struggles in the tournament have Buckeyes' fans (and also coaches, I'm sure) scratching their heads. But, in the first meeting against Kansas, Buford scored 21 points — including 17 in the second half. Most of those were after he received the ball on the block and turned and shot a fade away or drove to the basket and dropped in tear-dropper. ESPN analyst Jay Bilas — who worked the game with Knight — noted that when Buford does shoot from the outside, he's far more effective when going to his left and pulling up.
Kansas' Kevin Young could be dangerous off the bench
Young killed Ohio State coming off the pine in December. The 6-feet-8 junior scored 14 points and grabbed three rebounds in 24 high-energy minutes. The Buckeyes had no answer for him when he was on the floor.
Buckeyes' Amir Williams could be used to fluster KU's Thomas Robinson
Williams is a seldom used 7-footer. He played solid minutes in the Buckeyes' Regional Final win over Syracuse when Sullinger sat out a portion of the first half with foul trouble. In the game against Kansas, he also was able to frustrate Kansas' All-American power forward Thomas Robinson — at one point bating Robinson into a technical when the two were jawing with each other. Williams also got off a cheap shot on Robinson in the game's last minute when he gave Robinson a strong two-handed shove to the chest that resulted in Williams being whistled for a flagrant foul. It will probably lead to nothing, but just note there is apparent bad blood between the two big fellas.