The game between #3 Duke and #2 Ohio State was a matchup expected to be a barnburner throughout. But in runs to begin and end the first half, the Buckeyes made a case to their fans and a national television audience that they should be mentioned in the same breath as Kentucky and North Carolina when talking about early favorites to win the national title. Thad Matta's team opened the game on an 11-0 run and finished the half with an 11-2 run on their way to the 85-63 win at Value City Arena, and four of their five starters finished in double figures.
Jared Sullinger scored a team-high 21 points and grabbed eight rebounds while William Buford added 20, and Buford would combine with Aaron Craft (17 points, eight assists) to score nine of Ohio State's first eleven points (Sullinger scored the other two). Duke would fight their way back into the game thanks in large part to freshman guard Austin Rivers, who finished with a game-high 22 points and three assists. Rivers was able to get to the basket with a variety of moves while also knocking down perimeter shots but when the time came for his teammates to step up they were unable to, and that's a credit to the Buckeyes.
"We couldn't hit a shot," said Duke head coach Mike Krzyzweski. "Their defense was outstanding and then they got hot. They can score from a number of different positions. They had a great crowd, they had a lot going for them and they took advantage of everything."
Mason Plumlee played well for the Blue Devils as he finished with 16 points and eight rebounds, but the other three starters combined for just seven points (all scored by Seth Curry). Not only were Andre Dawkins and Ryan Kelly scoreless but they took just three shots combined, and few teams much less one the caliber of Duke can win big games with that happening. As a team Duke shot 47% on the night but made just three of fifteen shots from beyond the arc, a far cry from Ohio State's 8-for-14 night.
As for the run to end the first half, Deshaun Thomas was a big factor as he scored Ohio State's final nine points to push the margin out to 19 (47-28) at the intermission. Thomas finished with 18 points, scoring 13 of those in the final 7:41 of the first half. In pulling away the Buckeyes outscored Duke 10-0 in second-chance points in the first half, and they would lead by as many as 24 in the second half. While many will look to jump on the backs of the Blue Devils as a result of the big loss, more energy should be spent crediting Ohio State for their play.
"This team is still so young at times I don't know what to expect from them," said Matta. "There's a lot of uncertainty going into games like this, so I'm always excited to see how we respond. Our guys played to their strengths tonight which is a credit to them."
Other Notable Happenings
1. Virginia defends their home floor and beats Michigan.
It's still early but what a difference a year makes for Tony Bennett's Virginia Cavaliers, especially defensively. Last season the Cavaliers ranked 11th in the ACC in points allowed per possession, and their field goal percentage defense finished in the same spot. Through seven games this season Virginia leads the ACC in points allowed per possession and rank second in the conference in field goal percentage defense. Michigan shot 44% on Tuesday night but with Tim Hardaway Jr. limited to just five points the Wolverines fell 70-58 in Charlottesville. Michigan's offensive efficiency was 12 points below their season average as a result of Virginia's packline defense, and offensively Joe Harris and Mike Scott scored 18 points apiece to lead the way. Virginia moved to 6-1 on the season, and has the look of a team that can challenge for a possible NCAA Tournament berth.
2. Don't read too much into Saint Louis' loss at Loyola Marymount.
Saint Louis, fresh off of winning the 76 Classic over the holiday weekend, took on the test of playing a road game against a well-rested team in playing their fourth game in six days. LaRon Armstead scored a game-high 22 points and Anthony Ireland (17 points) made some big shots late to lead LMU to the 75-68 win at Gersten Pavilion. Cody Ellis led SLU with 18 points off the bench, but the fact that they turned the ball over 15 times (24.6% of their possessions) proved to be too much to overcome. Did fatigue play a role in the outcome? It likely did for a team that while talented has been out on the road for a week. So try not to make too big of a deal about this loss because there's plenty of time left in the season for a team that's proven itself to be a viable NCAA Tournament candidate. Plus, this isn't the first time LMU has beaten a ranked opponent this season (UCLA).
3. Arizona's freshman guards step up in a good win at New Mexico State.
Make no mistake about the fact that Arizona's short trip east to take on New Mexico State was a dangerous one, and given how the Wildcats began their last game (a home loss to San Diego State) it would have been easy to expect the Aggies to win. But Sean Miller's team rose to the challenge, winning 83-76 thanks in part to good nights from freshman guards Nick Johnson and Josiah Turner. Johnson scored a game-high 19 points in his first start of the season and Turner added 12 points, six rebounds, three assists and three steals off the bench. With Kyle Fogg and Jordin Mayes quiet for much of the night it's likely a safe assumption that Arizona loses if not for their freshmen. The consistent Jesse Perry posted another double-double (15 points, 12 rebounds) and Solomon Hill scored 12 points and grabbed seven rebounds to carry the load in the frontcourt. The reconfigured starting lineup avoided the slow start, and as a result Arizona picked up a solid road victory.
1. For a team that some thought could be an NCAA Tournament possibility out of the Big Ten, things sure have gone downhill for the Iowa Hawkeyes. They were ice cold from the field in a 71-55 loss to Clemson at home, shooting 28.6% from the field and scoring 20 points in the first half. Fran McCaffery's team has lost three of their last four, with all three losses being by 16 points or more.
2. Perry Jones III made his return to the floor at Baylor and it was a triumphant one as the Bears rolled Prairie View A&M 90-54. Jones finished the game with 27 points and six rebounds, but Pierre Jackson's line may be the eye-opener. 17 points and eight assists off the bench for Jackson, who turned the ball over just two times. It's been said many times: if the Bears can get solid backcourt play to go with their deep and talented front line, look out.
3. Harvard might have the best team in the Ivy League, but the best point guard in the league is Penn senior Zack Rosen. Rosen scored a team-high 20 points and dished out five assists in the Quakers' 75-72 win over Manhattan to move to 4-4 on the season.
4. Life without Demetri McCamey has gotten off to a very good start for Illinois, who moved to 7-0 with a 71-62 win at Maryland. The big reason why: the steady play of Bradley transfer Sam Maniscalco, who scored a team-high 24 points to lead the way.
5. As if things weren't going bad enough for UMBC, the 0-6 Retrievers learned that senior point guard Chris De La Rosa was leaving the team for personal and family-related matters. He played in just one game this season, but De La Rosa accounted for nearly a quarter of UMBC's field goals and more than half their assists in 2010-11.
6. Oregon lost another freshman with the announcement that Bruce Barron decided to leave the team. But the departures of he and Jabari Brown opens the door minutes-wide for the remaining players, and Johnathan Loyd took advantage to the tune of a career-high 24 points in the Ducks' 64-59 win over UTEP.
Three Notable Performances
1. F Wendell McKines (New Mexico State)
28 points (10-18 FG) and 10 rebounds in the Aggies' 83-76 loss to Arizona.
2. F Perry Jones III (Baylor)
27 points (10-14 FG) and six rebounds in the Bears' 90-54 win over Prairie View A&M.
3. F John Shurna (Northwestern)
25 points, eight rebounds, three blocks and three steals in the Wildcats' 76-60 win over Georgia Tech.