COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Moments after No. 7 Ohio State's 74-66 loss to ninth-ranked Kansas on Saturday night, coach Thad Matta was asked about his team's awful shooting.
He answered by making a crack that was closer to gallows humor.
"I asked Santa for Christmas to improve our jump shooting," he said.
Maybe he'll get that gift. But it sure didn't arrive early.
The Buckeyes misfired again and again — occasionally when they were unguarded, standing wide open on the perimeter — in losing to the Jayhawks (10-1).
Ohio State shot just 31 percent (20 of 65 from the field) for the game, losing despite getting 16 more attempts. In the second half, with the game on the line, the Buckeyes made only 9 of 36 shots (25 percent), including a critical 10-minute span in which they didn't have a field goal.
Kansas plays good defense. On this night, it was hard to determine how much of the misfires were attributable to the Jayhawks' defense and how much to an Ohio State team that has had difficulty making shots all season.
"(Kansas) didn't really do anything special," said Deshaun Thomas, who led the Buckeyes with 16 points on 4-of-11 shooting. "We didn't make shots. We had great shots at the basket."
Thomas, Shannon Scott (who had a career-high 15 points) and point guard Aaron Craft were asked if the Buckeyes had ever had a span in a practice or a game in which they had so much difficulty making a simple field goal.
"Not really," said Craft, who was 2 for 9 shooting.
The Buckeyes (9-2) ran off a 14-0 spurt in the first half against the Jayhawks to turn a six-point deficit into an eight-point lead. They did it by getting points in transition, forcing turnovers that led to layups and making the shots that they did get.
"They weren't getting back on defense," Scott said. "We hurried down and we got some easy layups. The second half they started getting back on us, so it was hard to get layups."
Everything was harder in the second half, it seemed.
"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.