NEW ORLEANS -– Just when Ohio State needed it most, the Buckeyes’ potent inside game vanished on Saturday night.
Trying to fend off Kansas’ second-half charge, Ohio State could do little to stem the tide as the Jayhawks rallied from a nine-point halftime deficit to win 64-62 in the Final Four.
Kansas will face Kentucky for the national championship on Monday night.
Ohio State built its nine-point advantage behind seven points apiece from Jared Sullinger, Deshaun Thomas and Lenzelle Smith Jr. However, it was a pace the Buckeyes could not sustain.
Sullinger finished with 13; Thomas had nine; Smith had 10. Combined, those three players were 10 of 38 from the field. For the game, OSU shot 33 percent from the floor – only 24 percent in the second half, which allowed KU to battle back.
“We weren’t able to execute the way we needed to and we had some good shots that didn’t fall for us,” Ohio State coach Thad Matta said. “It became a momentum thing and we could never get the momentum back on our side.”
The Buckeyes also were beaten on the boards; KU out-rebounded Ohio State 42-30.
Ohio State’s inside game – offensively and defensively – fell victim to too much Thomas Robinson (offensively) and Jeff Withey (defensively) from Kansas. Robinson scored a game-high 19 points and Withey swatted away seven shots and had eight rebounds.
In the end, Ohio State simply had no answer as Robinson, Travis Relford (15 points), Elijah Johnson (13) and Tyshawn Taylor (10) posted double digits.
Johnson (13 points, 10 rebounds) nearly mirrored Sullinger’s double-double (13 points, 11 rebounds).
One oddity from the box score: Ohio State used three subs – Sam Thompson, Amir Williams and Evan Ravenel, none of whom took a shot, much less scored, in 29 minutes of play.
It was that kind of night for the Buckeyes – a lot of out-of-character numbers that added up to a two-point loss.
“We had a heck of a season,” Matta surmised. “You hate to see it end.”