The Jayhawks had a "win one for Kenny Gregory" motto on Thursday night as KU stopped Ohio State, 80-67, at Allen Fieldhouse.
Kenny Gregory will have a holly, jolly Christmas this year.
Playing against his hometown university, Gregory hit eight of 11 shots -- good for 17 points -- as the No. 8-ranked Jayhawks dumped No. 12-ranked Ohio State, 80-67, Thursday before 16,300 fans who were dazzled by several Gregory dunks and spin moves for layups, at Allen Fieldhouse.
"We talked in the locker room how it'd be bragging rights for Kenny," KU coach Roy Williams said.
Gregory was competing against high school teammate George Reese (six points, seven boards) and high school rival Michael Redd.
Redd -- the 6-6 Columbus West standout who went 0-4 against Gregory's Independence High team his final two years in high school -- finished with 20 points on 7-of-17 shooting.
"Kenny took a little junk last year. They (Buckeyes) were in the Final Four and he was at home watching," Williams said, noting he saw no need for a special one-on-one talk with Gregory before the game.
Gregory will leave for Columbus on Dec. 23 and spend the holiday with his mom and dad, who attended Thursday's game. That was motivation in itself.
"I spent the bulk of the time putting it on the rest of them," Williams noted. "Kenny was enthusiastic and the others saw it."
The Jayhawks responded big-time, mostly for Gregory and partly to redeem themselves for a recent 12-point loss to Michigan State -- which, like Ohio State, is a Big 10 power.
"I was really fired up tonight. I was trying to be very aggressive," said center Eric Chenowith, who had 12 points and 12 rebounds.
"Coach Williams talked to me about getting to the basket for offensive rebounds. And Kenny ... we wanted it for him because he's from Ohio. Games against teams in our hometowns and home states are really important because it reassures us we made the right decision leaving home.
"We didn't play aggressively against a Big 10 team in Michigan State and knew this team with Ken Johnson (senior center, 10 points, seven boards) would be just as aggressive."
KU's guards contributed, too.
Jeff Boschee hit two of four three-pointers, four of seven shots and five of six free throws, finishing with 15 points. He also had six assists with no turnovers.
Boschee and freshman Kirk Hinrich -- who showed some toughness in even playing after suffering a concussion after getting elbowed at practice on Wednesday -- guarded All-America point guard Scoonie Penn.
Penn hit five of 23 shots, including three of 10 threes. He scored 19 points, with five assists against four turnovers.
"Scoonie Penn and Michael Redd were the two we were really concerned about," Williams said. "We wanted to keep their percentage down."
The two hit 12 of 40 shots (30 percent) while KU's starting guards Gregory and Boschee canned 12 of 19 for 63.1 percent.
"With Jeff and Kirk on Scoonie and Nick Bradford, Luke (Axtell), Marlon (London) and Kenny on Michael Redd, we hoped it'd be a factor," Williams said.
It was. OSU hit 35.9 percent of its shots to KU's 47.7 percent.
Gregory scored 10 points in the first half on 5-of-8 shooting as the Jayhawks led, 35-29, at the break.
Ohio State lagged by just six points despite hitting 34.4 percent of its first-half shots. The guard duo of Penn and Redd hit for a combined 19 points the first half on 6-of-19 shooting. Penn hit just three of 12 shots but tallied 12 first-half points.
The Jayhawks led, 22-20, at 7:49, then went on a Gregory-led 9-2 surge to lead, 31-22, at 3:32. Luke Axtell opened the run with a three off a feed from Jeff Boschee. Gregory then slammed following a steal and pass from Axtell. Gregory then put back a Chenowith miss and completed a run with another breakaway slam dunk.
Gregory did more than dunk. His first bucket came on a spinning move on the inside.
KU hit 16 of 38 shots the first half for 42.1 percent. Chenowith had nine boards.
Kansas scored six straight to open the second half but the Buckeyes used a 12-2 run to trail just 45-42 at 14:10.
At that point, a KU lineup of freshmen Hinrich, Nick Collison (12 points, seven boards) and Drew Gooden, soph London and junior Axtell went on a 10-3 surge to give the Jayhawks a 55-45 lead at 9:57.
KU led just 57-52 at 8:00. Then Gregory scored five points -- one on a 12 footer and the other a big time layup off a pass fro Bradford -- and the Jayhawks were in the clear, 69-54.
The Buckeyes (4-2) didn't quit the final five minutes, but couldn't make up the deficit.
"I thought the key to the game was we wanted to get the ball inside," Williams said. "It (stat sheet) says we had 40 points in the paint to their 18."
Now 8-1, Kansas will travel to Chicago on Saturday for an 11:05 a.m. meeting with Illinois. Ohio State will return home to meet Eastern Kentucky on Sunday.
-- Gary Bedore's phone number is 832-7186. His email address is email@example.com.