Last night the Ohio State Buckeyes fell to the Duke Blue Devils, 73-68, at Cameron Indoor Stadium. It was a tightly contested, entertaining match-up between two pretty good basketball teams.
The Buckeyes played excellent on-the-ball defense and rebounded the ball well to dominate the first half — even though they played most of the half with Deshaun Thomas, their top scorer, riding the bench with two fouls. The Buckeyes were sharp and attacking and had Duke on its heels. In the second half, however, Duke played much more aggressively at both ends of the court, and it paid off. Duke hit big shots, Ohio State didn’t, and when Duke pulled ahead it made the free throws that salted the game away.
Duke’s Mason Plumlee is as good as advertised. As expected, he dominated inside, scoring 21 points and corralling 17 rebounds. The Blue Devils also got great contributions from Rasheed Sulaimon, Ryan Kelly, and Quinn Cook, all of whom responded to Coach Mike Krzyzewski’s halftime instructions and hit huge shots to help Plumlee put the Blue Devils on top. As usual, Duke was helped by its awesome home court advantage, with great blue-painted fans screaming every time an Ohio State player touched the ball.
The Buckeyes’ main problem was shooting. Thomas never seemed to get into a rhythm after his early foul trouble, and Aaron Craft, Lenzelle Smith Jr., and Shannon Scott all struggled with their shots. Still, the game had lots of positives for the young Ohio State team. The Buckeyes stood toe-to-toe with a basketball power on its legendary home court, kept its poise even when shots weren’t dropping, and played down to the wire in a game many pundits expected would be a Duke blowout. Playing in a tough venue like Cameron Indoor Stadium will serve the Buckeyes well when the Big Ten season begins. I also thought that Amir Williams and Evan Ravenel played pretty well inside — if you can say that when the opposing center scores 21 points — and their experience with Plumlee should help when they match up against Indiana’s stud center, Cody Zeller. Sophomores LaQuinton Ross and Sam Thompson weren’t intimidated and showed they can make big contributions, and I suspect that Craft will use his off night as an incentive to play even harder the rest of the year.
It would have been nice to beat Duke, end its streak of home floor wins against non-conference opponents, and win the Big Ten-ACC Challenge for the Big Ten, but the Buckeyes have nothing to be ashamed of. Coach Matta and his staff will use the lessons from this game to teach and tinker and get the team ready for the Big Ten season.