Well goodbye to all of that: Ohio State blew the doors off of Duke in Columbus, and the final score of 85-63 was deceptively close. At times it looked rather like Duke taking out an overmatched team like Presbyterian in Cameron.
Ohio State played a beautiful game. They really moved the ball, they hit open shots, they kept the defense off balance and in general were superb on both ends of the floor.
Duke, not so much. There were some small bright spots, some green shoots if you will pardon the pun, but all in all, it was a night for the Buckeyes to stake a claim.
Mason Plumlee continues his offensive renovation with a 16 point game on 7-12 shooting. He also grabbed eight boards.
And the maturation of Austin Rivers continues. At times in this game he toyed with his defenders, blowing by them for layups or assists.Â People who are questioning him pretty clearly don't understand much about what he's doing.Â Does he still need to improve his driving discretion? Granted. But how many guys have you ever seen who had the quickness and the ability to just completely shake guys off?Â You could put Rivers in a 5X5 box and he could lose his defender - that's how good he is.
Otherwise, though, not much from the other three starters. Ryan Kelly didn't scratch, but did grab three rebounds and had an assist. Andre Dawkins got shut out too.Â Seth Curry was 3-8 from the floor for seven points.
Duke had real problems keeping the ball in the first half, coughing it up nine timesÂ Though it seemed worse, they only turned it over (officially) three times in the second.
The problem, basically, was defense.Â Duke allowed Jared Sullinger to go 8-14, Deshaun Thomas to shoot 8-12, William Buford to hit 8-15 and Aaron Craft to shoot 7-11.
The starters, in other words, shot just a shade under 60%.
Ohio State outscored Duke by 15 from three point range. Not to point out the obvious, but they harassed Duke into a 3-15 night while hitting 8-14 themselves.Â If that had somehow been even, it would have been a seven point game.
It was a disappointing night and Duke played like a team with no legs.Â If it's jet lag, we can live with that: they've done a lot of traveling lately.
Despite the nightmarish quality of the game, there were indeed some bright spots, as alluded to above.
First of all, the general play of MP2 and Rivers.Â Mason, after three years, has become a solid offensive player. He's been good on defense and a very, very good rebounder, but his offense has not been reliable.
Until now.Â Now he's a load.
And of course Rivers is improving quickly.
Beyond those guys, though, after it became evident that not everyone was going to be useful in this game, Coach K went into the bench.Â MP1 was generally reliable and solid and is playing like a senior, and one who can periodically be dominant.
Tyler Thornton didn't play very well, but he's a known commodity at this point. Call it a night off.
Josh Hairston, Quinn Cook and Michael Gbinije were the beneficiaries of the erratic play from the players before them in the rotation, and they took (relatively speaking) full advantage.
Cook had four assists in 14 minutes, or more than Rivers, Curry and Dawkins had in 82 (all by Rivers). Think about that for a second: the starting guards had an assist every 27 minutes; Cook had one every 3.5.
Hairston came in and was 3-3 from the floor, while Gbinije had a very athletic steal which he took the distance of the court for a layup.
Those are the good points, and there is one more we should mention in a sense: after a loss like this, Coach K is brutally honest about where his team stands.Â They will be broken down, analyzed, repurposed and refocused.
There's no question that Duke was embarrassed and humilated by Ohio State, but they were also taught several lessons, and those will be distilled and used.
We can think of several teams Duke's played over the years who really stuck it to them, only to find that in a rematch, it was a very different game. West Virginia comes to mind, as does UNLV.
Nobody talks to us about this, but we're pretty sure Duke, collectively, would like another shot at the Buckeyes, and tomorrow if it could be arranged.
That can't happen of course, but perhaps the tournament is a possibility.
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