Buckeyes Kick Butt Against Blue Devils
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — If Tuesday night’s matchup between No. 2 Ohio State and No. 3 Duke was March Madness game in November, the Buckeyes could be in for something special this season.
With NBA stars LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Michael Redd sitting courtside in one of the best environments in the 13-year history of Value City Arena, Ohio State clobbered Duke in an eye-opening 22-point victory.
“Sometimes you just get your butt kicked,” Duke coach Mike
“We were getting our butt kicked. I’ve had my butt kicked before and we’ve kicked some butt. Tonight, my butt is sore.”
The Buckeyes (7-0) scored the first 11 points of the game, and with a sold-out crowd behind them, never looked back in an 85-63 victory on national television.
“They had a lot going and they took advantage of everything,” a bewildered Krzyzewski said after a game in which Duke never had the lead.
“They were just really good. Congratulations to them. We can be good too, but we were not good tonight. They had a lot to do with that.”
Jared Sullinger led the way with 21 points and eight rebounds, and William Buford added 20 points, five rebounds and four assists, but it was the spark provided by sophomore Deshaun Thomas that really turned this game into a blowout.
“I wanted to have a big game for my teammates,” said Thomas, who finished with 18 points and five rebounds in 28 minutes.
“I was kind of the ‘x-factor’ today. It was fun.”
The game got off to a slow start by both teams, but Aaron Craft got things started with a three from the top of the arc. William Buford scored off a steal by Lenzelle Smith and Sullinger added a pair of baskets before the Blue Devils (7-1) put a single point on the scoreboard.
Duke climbed back into the game thanks to a 10-0 run fueled by freshman Austin Rivers and two of the Plumlee brothers, Miles and Mason. They made it a 16-15 game with 11:24 to play in the first half and it remained a one-point game with 9:49 to play before Ohio State went on a 13-2 run.
It started at the free throw line and ended on a jumper by Thomas at the 6:14 mark of the first half. The Buckeyes extended their lead from one to 13 points during that stretch and it would balloon to 19 points at halftime thanks to a last-second jumper that rattled in for Thomas.
“Everything kind of fell into place for him,” OSU Head Coach Thad Matta said.
“He had a couple of nice drives and open threes, which got him into a rhythm. The last play of the first half, the out of bounds play, was huge. We literally put that in practice today and it gave us all the momentum going into the break.”
They led 47-28 at the end of the first half and Thomas picked up right where he left off after the break, knocking down a three to give Ohio State a 20-point lead. Thomas would score 14 of Ohio State’s 17 points as they put the Blue Devils in their rearview mirror.
“I wasn’t focused on one guy. I was focused on what we were doing,” Krzyzewski said as he became more disgruntled after the game.
“I’m not going to evaluate every one of their players. I didn’t coach their team. I wasn’t focused on each one of their guys, I was trying to figure out how not to lose by 30.”
Krzyzewski’s team was coming off a tough stretch of games, which included five games in the last 11 days. Three of those games were played away from the continental United States, as the Blue Devils beat No. 15 Michigan and No. 14 Kansas in the Maui Classic.
“Now you guys know why we stopped going out there,” Matta said with a smile after the game.
It was all smiles for Ohio State. They finished off the game strong, outrebounding Duke 33-27 while shooting better than 59-percent from the floor. The Buckeyes were a perfect 5-for-5 from behind the arc in the second half, while Duke shot just 3-of-15 from long range for the game.
Craft added 17 points, eight assists and five rebounds, along with his typically annoying defense, but it was Sullinger who really caught Krzyzewski’s attention.
“Part of being a good point guard is having good people you can point guard for and he has the best player in the country, and Buford,” he said.
“He’s really good, and they’re really good. When you have Sullinger in there, he’s a man inside. He’s always an option. You can always get the ball to him and run offense through him or have him be the offense.”
It was a big win for Sullinger and this Ohio State team, but also a big moment for the program. No one had beaten the Blue Devils in November since 2006, and only one other team (Wisconsin) had handed them a loss in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.
“Duke is Duke, and they are always going to be good and a team to beat with Coach K and all of his accomplishments,” Sullinger said.
“Buckeye Nation showed up today, and we loved it.”
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