The Ohio State Buckeyes came into the game against the Duke Blue Devils as two-point underdogs. They trailed throughout most of the first half. However, E.J. Liddell and Zed Key both had huge second halves for the Buckeyes, to help them complete the upset of Duke.
Before the matchup with Ohio State, Duke had the most impressive resume in college basketball hands-down. This year, the Blue Devils have already beaten Kentucky and Gonzaga. Superstar freshman Paolo Banchero is averaging nearly 18 points per game (ppg) while also hauling in seven rebounds. Even though Banchero did finish with 14 points, he did it while shooting under 30% from the field. It also hurt the Blue Devils that the other freshman stars on the team, A.J. Harris and Trevor Keels, combined to go 3-13 from the field for nine points, all of them being from Keels.
The Blue Devils are young and will get better, but Ohio State is a team that has now won a number of close games, so I would not want to see them in March.
Duke Shows National Championship Potential Early In The Game
In the first half, it was all Duke. Which, in a way, is fitting for Coach K’s final season. However, the Blue Devils dominated the first half of this game. They torched the nets, shooting over 52% from the field in the first half. Wendall Moore Jr. had a great overall game but had a great first half in particular. However, the fact that this is such a young team, means they may struggle at times on the road, and they sure did last night.
Coach K and Duke took a 13-point lead into halftime. However, they grew their lead in the first couple of minutes of the second half to get it to 15. After that, the Blue Devils went ice cold. The Buckeyes took advantage and made a great second-half comeback. With 1:06 remaining in the game, Buckeye big man E.J. Liddell stepped to the line for two foul shots. On the night, the Buckeyes struggled at the line, hitting only 11 of 12 free throws. However, in this situation, Liddell nailed both to give the Buckeyes their first lead since early in the second half. Then, on the next possession for Ohio State, Liddell widened the margin to three after hitting a tough jump-shot.
Banchero missed a game-tying three in the final seconds, and Cedric Russell nailed two free throws to give the Buckeyes a huge early-season victory. Buckeye head coach Chris Holtmann had this to say after the win.
“I thought our ability to stay with it was really important,” Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann said. “Players win games, and we had a number of guys make plays down the stretch.”Ohio State Basketball Coach Chris Holtmann (ESPN)
What’s Next For Duke and Ohio State Basketball?
E.J. Liddell finished the game with 14 points and 11 rebounds. However, another big man, Zed Key, was huge in the upset. He scored 20 points and was a go-to option on the offensive side of the court for Ohio State. Towards the end of the game, the Buckeyes held Duke scoreless for the last four minutes. Obviously, Key and Liddell were key players, but Louisiana transfer Russell had his first big game as a member of the Ohio State team. He was 3-3 from deep and hit the final two free throws to ice the game. He finished with 12 points and three rebounds.
As for the Ohio State team as a whole? They are a gritty team. Liddell and Key are the big players, but Kyle Young, a returner from last year’s squad, might be the glue that holds the team together. While he only had three points last night, his presence could be felt from even watching the game. Freshman guard Meechie Johnson Jr. has shown some great signs early in the season, including hitting a game-winning three-pointer versus Seton Hall. Another freshman, Malachi Branahm, has also been very solid early in the season. He’s a starter that is averaging six ppg, along with three rebounds. The Buckeyes have an experienced roster, which should bode well for them going forward. Their next stop is at Penn State on Sunday, December 5th to open Big Ten play.
As for Duke, there is no such thing as a good loss, but this one won’t sting for very long. Paolo Banchero and Wendell Moore Jr. both had solid nights against Ohio State. It was other players that needed to step up. Keels finished with only nine points while shooting very poorly from the field. Harris, who didn’t play basketball his senior year due to an injury, is still trying to get into game shape, so his minutes are limited for now. With that being said, Duke lost last night the same way they always lose in the NCAA Tournament. They fall in love with the three-pointer but, at some point, they go cold, and they did just that last night.
Moving forward, the Blue Devils will be fine. Banchero will be in the player of the year conversation all year long, and Keels had been fantastic before the Ohio State game. Duke takes on South Carolina State on December 14th, and Appalachian State on the 16th before heading into conference play against Virginia Tech on December 22nd.
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