No. 2 Duke outduels No. 4 Ohio State
Once the shots started falling for Duke freshman Rasheed Sulaimon, it wasn’t long before another top-five opponent went down, too.
Sulaimon scored all 17 of his points in the second half of the second-ranked Blue Devils’ 73-68 come-from-behind victory over No. 4 Ohio State on Wednesday night.
”I let my teammates down in the beginning, not playing as well as I could be, and (coach Mike Krzyzewski) really got on me at halftime,” Sulaimon said. ”I just love these guys and wanted to go out there and respond.”
Mason Plumlee had 21 points and a career-high-tying 17 rebounds, and Ryan Kelly added 15 points and hit 3-pointers on consecutive trips downcourt early during the 20-7 run that put the Blue Devils (7-0) ahead to stay and sent them to their third win over a top-five team this month.
Deshaun Thomas scored 16 points for Ohio State (4-1), while Aaron Craft and Lenzelle Smith Jr. had 11 apiece. The Buckeyes were held to 33.8 percent shooting.
”If you had told me we were going to shoot 34 percent, I would have said we got ran out of the gym tonight,” Buckeyes coach Thad Matta said.
Shannon Scott pulled the Buckeyes within 66-64 with a free throw with 28.9 seconds left but had a critical turnover on the next trip down, and Quinn Cook sealed it by hitting six free throws in the final 27.3 seconds.
”We just didn’t do a good job of staying together, and they started going on a run,” Craft said. ”We couldn’t weather it.”
Cook finished with 12 points for Duke, which shot 58 percent in the second half — Sulaimon was 7 of 10 in the final 20 minutes — to remain unbeaten at home in the made-for-TV ACC-Big Ten Challenge and preserve its school-record winning streak at home against nonconference opponents.
The Blue Devils, who beat then-No. 3 Kentucky in Atlanta and then-No. 2 Louisville in the Bahamas, won their 97th straight against non-ACC visitors to Cameron Indoor Stadium.
But for much of the way, nothing came easy for them. They were outrebounded 40-37, couldn’t get anything going on the offensive glass, struggled to keep up with Ohio State’s quick ball movement and couldn’t find their touch.
”When you play the schedule that we’ve played, this is not Xbox or fantasy stuff where these guys are healthy” all the time, Krzyzewski said. ”He just played three games (in the Battle 4 Atlantis), get back Sunday afternoon and go out and play these guys on Wednesday — that’s an effort. That’s a hell of an effort, and for a freshman, he got knocked back, and at halftime, I thought he responded … and gave us a verve.”
Not to mention a spark, by hitting the first in a series of three straight 3-pointers that turned the game.
Sulaimon buried one from the key to pull the Blue Devils within 51-50 with about 6 1/2 minutes left. Kelly then hit 3s on consecutive trips down the court, including one in Amir Williams’ face that put Duke ahead to stay, 56-53, its first lead since the 14-minute mark of the first half.
”Once he hit those 3s, it was like, ‘Yes, we’re here,”’ Sulaimon said. ”Once we got that lead, we weren’t going to give it up.”
Plumlee followed up Cook’s missed layup with a dunk that made it 58-54 with 4 minutes left and sent the rowdy Cameron crowd into ear-splitting madness. Sulaimon capped the run with a fast-break dunk that put Duke up 66-58 with just over a minute to play.
Meanwhile, the Buckeyes could do little right down the stretch. With Cook in his face much of the game, Craft finished 3 of 15 from the field. His jumper with just over 3 minutes left was Ohio State’s last field goal until Evan Ravenel’s dunk with 3 seconds left.
”They just stopped guarding me towards the end, going under ball screens and things,” Craft said. ”Just couldn’t knock down shots. Sometimes, that happens.”
Yet after Cook’s first two late free throws, Ohio State had a chance to make it a one-possession game again, but Scott dribbled off his foot with 20 seconds left.
This old building was rocking at levels usually reserved for the annual visit from North Carolina, although the Buckeyes certainly did their best to hush the place early.
Duke trudged through a decidedly un-Duke-like opening half in which the Blue Devils went 10 minutes between field goals, missed 13 of their final 16 shots, didn’t get their first offensive rebound until there were nearly 4 minutes left and were fortunate to only be down 31-23 at halftime.
The Buckeyes generated plenty of open looks by whipping the ball around the perimeter, and when they missed, they gave themselves plenty of second chances by playing with markedly more physicality than Duke could muster.
Williams’ free throw with 1:13 left put Ohio State up 31-21, Duke’s first double-digit deficit at home this season. Duke erased its rare 10-point deficit early in the second half with an 11-4 run.