associated pressOhio State's William Buford, left, scored 17 of his game-tying high of 21 points in the second half to lead a Buckeye charge that fell flat late.
Associated Press Enlarge
LAWRENCE, Kan. -- Tyshawn Taylor played through the pain. Jared Sullinger did not.
That may have been the difference for No. 13 Kansas in its victory over second-ranked Ohio State.
The Jayhawks' starting point guard had a career-high 13 assists despite a torn meniscus and sprained MCL in his right knee, helping Kansas to a 78-67 victory over the Buckeyes, who were missing Sullinger for the second consecutive game due to back spasms.
"I can get on Ty because he will turn it over every now and then, but where would we be without him?" Kansas coach Bill Self said. "We don't win the game tonight if he doesn't play. He definitely isn't 100 percent."
Thomas Robinson took advantage of Sullinger's absence inside to score 21 points, and freshman forward Kevin Young came off the bench to add a career-high 14 for the Jayhawks (6-2), who extended their winning streak to 47 games over non-conference opponents at Allen Fieldhouse.
William Buford had 17 of his 21 points in the second half for Ohio State (8-1), which was playing on the road for the first time this season. Deshaun Thomas added 19 points.
"When you make mistakes, Kansas is so good they're going to make you pay, and we made some key mistakes," Buckeyes coach Thad Matta said. "Our guys competed -- just made mistakes down the stretch."
Taylor hurt his knee in practice earlier in the week and could have opted for surgery, but the Jayhawks' medical staff decided he wouldn't harm it any more by playing. They left it up to the senior to decide whether he could manage the pain, and Self didn't ask how much he was experiencing.
"If you ask them if they're hurting, then you give them an opportunity to give you an answer," Self said, adding that Taylor hadn't practiced all week until Friday.
He'll have surgery Sunday and will miss about three weeks.
It was more publicly known that Sullinger was a question mark, but he wasn't ruled out until just before the game, when his balky back simply wouldn't loosen up.
"As I told Coach Self when we shook hands before the game, 'Merry Christmas early,'" Matta said.
"I don't think his exact words were, 'Merry Christmas,'" Self said with a grin. "I think there were some other words in there, maybe describing the holiday."
"I don't think you put an asterisk with the win," Self added. "Ohio State can certainly say, and rightfully so, 'Jared didn't play.' And we know he didn't play, and they're a much better team with him. We wanted him to play. But just because he plays doesn't guarantee anything."
The Jayhawks were desperate for a high-profile victory after losses to top-ranked Kentucky and No. 7 Duke, and they got on against a Buckeyes team that had led the nation in scoring margin.
"We had this awesome non-conference schedule set up and we still have some good teams to play, but the main teams were Kentucky, Ohio State, and Duke," Robinson said, "and it would have been incomplete if we didn't get one of them."
Buoyed by a frenzied crowd that jammed Allen Fieldhouse to the rafters, the Jayhawks raced to a 23-13 lead just over midway through the first half, the decibel level at one point registering 114 on the scoreboard -- roughly equal to that of a rock concert.
The school announced new football coach Charlie Weis during the intermission, and he concluded a brief statement by saying, "Let's go whup Ohio State. Rock chalk, Jayhawk!"
The Jayhawks gladly obliged.
Johnson hit two more 3-pointers early in the second half, and the lead swelled to 47-37 when Releford hit a 3-pointer off a feed from Johnson and Jeff Withey scored on a putback.
Matta called timeout to calm his team down, and Buford proved his veteran poise by scoring the first basket when play resumed. It was the start of four-minute run in which he scored all five of the Buckeyes' field goals, getting them back within single digits. The closest it ever got was 62-58, though.
"We competed. We're a competitive team and that's a positive," Thomas said. "Without Jared, we came out and competed without him. We're a great team with him, don't get me wrong, but we came out and competed and that's one thing that coach noticed."
No. 13 Ohio State 84, Canisius 41
COLUMBUS -- Tayler Hill scored 21 points and Samantha Prahalis had 20 to help Ohio State beat Canisius.
The Buckeyes worked the ball inside and scored 34 points in the paint compared to eight for Canisius (3-5). They also totaled 16 assists
Ohio State's 8-0 record ties the 2009-10 team for the best start in coach Jim Foster's 10 seasons at the school and the Buckeyes have won 16 of their past 17 games with the only loss to Tennessee in the 2011 NCAA Dayton Regional in March.
Jen Morabito made four three-pointers to lead Canisius with 12 points.