Participating in the ACC/B1G Challenge, the Buckeyes traveled for their first ever game at Cameron Indoor Stadium against the Duke Blue Devils. The result was the ultimate game of runs as Duke put together a long come-back in the second half to pick up the 73-68 win. DeShaun Thomas finished with only 16 points, his lowest scoring output of the season so far. He was joined in double digits by Lenzelle Smith and Aaron Craft with 11 a piece. Duke’s Mason Plumlee lead all scorers with 20 points and a ludicrous 17 rebounds, and was joined in the double digit club by Rasheed Sulaimon with 17, and Ryan Kelly with 15.
The Buckeyes dominated the first half, finishing with a 31-23 lead to go into intermission. That was made primarily possible by the total lack of scoring from Duke, caused at least in part by the excellent Buckeye defense in their half-court man-to-man set. Unfortunately, the Buckeyes couldn’t connect on a number of open looks, and their shooting percentages were unfortunately low despite a rather poor defensive effort from the Blue Devils throughout the early going.
Everything changed in the second half. Mike Krzyzewski must have gotten into the Blue Devil’s ears in the half as they came out highly motivated on both ends of the court. It took some time, but they slowly chipped away at the Buckeye lead until they eventually claimed it with only 5 minutes left in the game. Duke’s rebounding on the defensive end improved, but most importantly they began to hit their outside looks when it mattered most.
Regardless of the outcome, this is a positive result for the Buckeyes. There’s no such thing as a moral victory, but there definitely are positives you can take away from a loss. The Bucks learned a number of things they have to start doing better. However, they also learned that they’re in a very good position already this season. Duke is a fantastic basketball team this year, and both teams put together a great game for us tonight.
1. Center play. Give Ravs and Williams lots of credit tonight. They did an excellent job in the paint against Plumlee and the Blue Devils. And the rebounding! The Buckeyes had as many offensive rebounds as Duke had total rebounds at the half. There was even a stretch that Williams had three straight rebounds, 2 on offense and one on defense, in 3 separate possessions. He’s starting to figure it out.
2. Offensive Rebounding. Like I said above, the rebounding was impressive tonight, but nothing was more impressive than the offensive rebounding. The Buckeyes took advantage of great positioning under the basket, and great box-outs to at worst get a hand on the ball. Very impressive work on the glass. That changed dramatically in the second half, but doesn’t change the meaning in the first half effort.
3. Basic man defense. When the Buckeyes were able to set up their defense, there was basically nothing Duke could do in the first half. Aaron Craft, Shannon Scott, and Lenzelle Smith might be the best backcourt defense trio in the country this year, and they proved it forcing Duke’s guards into 1-11 shooting early in the game.
1. Perimeter defense (still). Not sure this team will ever learn to properly switch in the man defense to cover the open man beyond the arc. It’s very frustrating when we double team a guy at the top of the key, and the second defenders man is standing wide open for the catch and release not 7 feet away.
2. Transition defense. When Duke got out on the fast break, the Buckeyes were lazy about getting back on defense. Those transition baskets were costly, and allowed Duke to stay in the game when the Bucks should have been running out to a big lead.
3. Offensive decision making in the second half. A lot of it had to do with Duke’s defense and it’s aggressiveness after the intermission. However, there’s no excuse for some of the rapid shots, and poor looks at the rim the Bucks were taking. You’ve gotta slow it down, catch your breath, and attack the defense where they’re giving you an opportunity.
4. Shooting percentage. The Bucks just simply could not make anything fall, even when the shots were wide open, outside or inside. It didn’t help matters when Duke’s defense improved in the second half either. Ohio State simply could not buy a basket during some stretches in Cameron Indoor. Their three point shooting was less than 30% for the game, but their 2 point shooting was down around the low 30′s. You won’t win in Cameron Indoor with those kinds of numbers.
The Buckeyes will next play the Northern Kentucky Norse on Saturday, December 1st in Value City Arena. You’ll be able to see that game on the BTN at 4:30 PM Eastern.