COLUMBUS, Ohio -- A day after the first snow of the season hit the ground in Columbus, things went cold inside of the Schottenstein Center.
Following a first half that looked like a classic heavyweight slugfest between two top-10 teams, No. 7 Ohio State struggled to find its shot after halftime, and as a result fell to No. 9 Kansas by a score of 74-66 on Saturday. The Buckeyes' loss marked their third to the Jayhawks in the past 13 months.
"I'm not sure we have anybody's number," Kansas head coach Bill Self said. "Today was probably the best we played against Ohio State in the three games."
A Deshaun Thomas 3-pointer with 18:23 remaining the game gave the Buckeyes a 40-37 lead, but also marked the last real momentum that OSU saw on Saturday. The Buckeyes went a full 10 minutes without a field goal in the second half, allowing the Jayhawks to go on a 27-12 run to not only regain the lead, but take a 12-point advantage over OSU.
"It changed when we didn't make shots. We had great looks at the basketball, good three-point shooting shots, and they weren't falling," Thomas said. "They started knocking down shots, and that's when the game started changing."
Kansas admittedly keyed in on Thomas, who finished the game as OSU's leading scorer with 16 points on 4-of-11 shooting. The junior forward found little help from his teammates, with Aaron Craft, Sam Thompson, Lenzelle Smith Jr., LaQuinton Ross, and Evan Ravenel making a combined nine field goals on 39 attempts, good for a 25 percent success rate.
"We knew that he could go off for 30, easily," Kansas center Jeff Withey said of Thomas. "Coach Self is all about defense and we showed that today, that we're tough and we shutdown their best scorer."
Ohio State's cold streak proved to be detrimental to its effort, with the Buckeyes making just nine field goals in the second half- five of which came in the final two minutes after Kansas had already built a double-digit lead. OSU coach Thad Matta admitted that his team's shooting woes- which were reminiscent of the same ones that it endured in a Nov. 28 loss to Duke- left him searching for answers.
"There was one point in the second half where I turned to the bench and I said, 'Hey, let's call a play where we score,'" Matta said. "A lot of it just comes down to you've gotta put the ball in the basket in a game like this game and we couldn't do that and it became contagious throughout."
The Jayhawks were able to take advantage of the Buckeyes' struggles thanks in large part to a stellar performance from redshirt freshman Ben McLemore. Kansas' leading scorer paced the Jayhawks with 22 points on Saturday, connecting on eight of his 17 shot attempts, including a trio of three-point shots.
"McLemore is as good as any player in the country," Matta said. "He's a very smooth player."
Kansas needed all 13 of the points that McLemore scored in the first half, which was everything you'd expect from a battle between two top-10 teams that already have a familiarity with one another after squaring off in Lawrence, Kan. last year before meeting in this past March's Final Four.
Opening the game with a 23-17 advantage, the Jayhawks couldn't hold on as the Buckeyes pieced together a 14-0 run to take a 31-23 lead. OSU found most of its success in converting 11 Kansas turnovers into 13 points, behind an uptempo pace pushed by sophomore point guard Shannon Scott, who scored 10 of his 15 points in the first half on Saturday.
"We have to continue to build on that," Matta said. "We've got to continue to get better defensively, because transition is great to us if we can get out and run."
Ultimately, however, the Buckeyes couldn't keep it up, allowing the Jayhawks to close the half on a 14-4 and take a 37-35 lead into halftime.
OSU appeared poise to answer with a run of its own after opening the half with five consecutive points, but the Buckeyes' cold streak following Thomas' made three-pointer was too costly against last season's national runner-up.
"They didn't really do nothing special on the defensive end," Thomas said. "They just played hard."
Ohio State will return to action next Saturday, when it will host Chicago State for a 4:30 p.m. tipoff at the Schottenstein Center.