The Blue Devils had nothing for the Ohio State Buckeyes Tuesday night sans some bad defense, poor shooting and general basketball malaise. The Buckeyes ran right through the Devils as if they weren’t even there, coasting to a 22 point win (85-63). There was a lot that Ohio State did right but a whole lot that Duke did wrong. The pundits will all say that Duke is overrated and that Ohio State should be crowned National Champions right now, of course these are the same pundits who make and vote in a lot of these polls so be sure to take what they say with a grain of salt.
Ohio State played well, and a number 2 ranked team playing on their home floor should play great, that does not excuse the poor performance by Duke. It doesn’t excuse live ball turnovers, it doesn’t excuse a lack passion and fire. It doesn’t excuse the mental mistakes. That all being said it’s one game, one snapshot of where this team is right now. It’s not the Duke you will see in a month, or 2 months. You play games like this to get better. You play games like this to win of course but the invaluable experience of a tough early game like this should hopefully payoff later. Sure it’s embarrassing, but it goes down in the loss column as one loss not 20 losses. The degree to which they dropped this game is inconsequential it only hurts their pride. As crestfallen as the Devils are now, it’s a lesson learned–their margin for error is very small. Sometimes a loss does a better job than a close win to highlight your areas of deficiency.
Defensively the Devils made Ohio State look like an NBA all-star squad, allowing 4 players to have monster games. Including Jared Sullinger who had 21, sophomore guard Aaron Craft scored 17 and dished 8 assists, senior forward William Buford had 20, and finally Deshaun Thomas had 18. The ball seemed to go the way of the Buckeyes on every 50-50 play, from tipped rebounds, to bank shots, to held balls. It was not to be the Devils night.
Now the few bright spots in this game were the play of Austin Rivers and Mason Plumlee, the only two that showed skill and heart through the hole game. Rivers scored 22 points off of drives to the bucket, and a couple of three point bombs. Rivers was aggressive and the only guard that stepped up in this game on his way to a career high. Mason Plumlee added 16 and 8 rebounds. Mason was also aggressive with the basketball and clearly is still the most improved Devil so far this year. Unfortunately Duke needed a lot more and that never came.
The normally offensive minded Seth Curry was bottled up and well defended, Curry could not create his own shot or get shots for others in this game scoring 7 but playing only 26 minutes most of which was in the first half. Starters Ryan Kelly and Andre Dawkins were both held scoreless in the game and both were constantly beaten on defense and payed for that with bench time in the second half.
Coach K clearly was sending a signal to the starters by keeping backups Quinn Cook, Josh Hairston and Michael Gbinije in for most of the second half. While they could do nothing to curb the momentum the Buckeyes built, the effort was there. As a Duke fan you want to forget this one, as a Duke player you never should.
The only question remains is now that you have been exposed, how do you fix the problem? How does K get Dawkins, Curry and Kelly back on track? Does he mix in the younger talent a bit more? Guess we will have to wait and see.