It is officially that time of the year folks. Ohio State against the big bad wolf. The now-ranked No. 25 Ohio State men’s basketball team takes their 5-1 record to Cameron Indoor Stadium to take on the No. 17 Duke Blue Devils, who enter the contest 6-2.
Duke has been an interesting case this season, as their two losses are both against very solid teams in Purdue and Kansas, but they also do not have a convincing win. They beat Xavier but struggled in that one as well and only wound up beating the Musketeers by seven.
For Ohio State, they are coming off a successful trip to the Maui Invitational. After falling to No. 24 San Diego State to open the tournament, the Buckeyes rattled off two nice victories over Cincinnati and then-No. 23 Texas Tech Red Raiders. This performance allowed the Buckeyes to be ranked for the first time this season, sneaking into the back end of the poll on Monday afternoon.
Last season, Ohio State famously pulled off the upset of the year at the time, knocking off then-No. 1 Duke 71-66 at Value City Arena. Zed Key led the Buckeyes with 20 points and E.J. Liddell added 14 points, 14 rebounds, six assists, and three blocks. Liddell also hit a huge bucket to give the Buckeyes a three-point lead with 16 seconds left. Duke freshman and future No. 1 draft pick Paolo Banchero missed a three-point field goal with five seconds left to end the game.
For Duke, Wendell Moore Jr. finished with 17 points, eight rebounds, five assists, and two steals. Paolo Banchero finished with 14 points and five rebounds but was just 4-for-14 from the field.
Here is a great clip on how the Buckeyes and head coach Chris Holtmann pulled off the upset.
Ohio State ran the same play on the final two possessions to secure the win over #1 Duke.— Eric Shapiro (@eric_shap) December 1, 2021
Box set --> Pindown for EJ Liddell --> clear out so he can operate near the elbow pic.twitter.com/SUpyhO1nJc
Duke has five impactful freshmen in their rotation, as well as two transfers coming off the bench whom Ohio State fans should be very familiar with. Ryan Young previously played at Northwestern, while Jacob Grandison spent three seasons at Illinois prior to his transfer to Duke.
Also, just a fun (kind of) stat, Ohio State is 2-0 against Duke following a Buckeye loss to Michigan in football. Read the article below for more history and information on that funky trend.
Ohio State is coming into this one with the momentum, as they defeated Texas Tech in their last game 80-73, while Duke was hammered by Purdue in their last game, falling to the Boilermakers 75-56. They had no answers for Purdue’s defense, nor could they do much against big Zach Edey below the basket.
Duke is led by freshman big man Kyle Filipowski, who is averaging 15.4 points and 9.4 rebounds per game. Duke junior guard Jeremy Roach is the only player these Buckeyes are familiar with from last season, and he is averaging 12.9 points, 2.5 rebounds, and 3.6 assists per game. Freshman forward Mark Mitchell is averaging 9.6 points and 3.4 rebounds per game, while Ryan Young is averaging 7.8 points and 7.0 rebounds per game.
Dariq Whitehead and Dereck Lively have yet to make much of an impact for the Blue Devils as the top two recruits in the 2022 class, but they have both been dealing with injuries and are not fully healthy yet. They’ve combined to average 7.9 points and 4.9 rebounds per game thus far.
For the Buckeyes, talented freshman Brice Sensabaugh is averaging 15.8 points and 4.0 rebounds per game while Justice Sueing is averaging 14.5 points and 4.8 rebounds per game. Sueing is coming off a career game against Texas Tech, recording 33 points, eight rebounds, five assists, and two steals in 31 minutes.
Zed Key is averaging 12.5 points and 8.5 rebounds per game and West Virginia transfer Sean McNeil has been a great spark off the bench for the Buckeyes, averaging nearly ten points per game over 27.5 minutes per contest.
Duke has been a tough case to crack this season thus far. They have the size and the talent on paper, but they are young, and they really struggle to shoot the ball.
It is imperative that Zed Key stays out of foul trouble. We all know how Duke gets officiated at Cameron, and Key will have to be aware of that as well. He had a career game last season against Duke, scoring 20 points on 8-for-15 shooting, but most importantly, he only recorded two fouls in the entirety of the game while dealing with talented Duke big man Mark Williams.
If Key gets into foul trouble, it will come down Felix Okpara down low to help rim protect. Okpara has provided solid minutes this season, but he has only played 14 minutes per game and would be thrust into an extremely difficult situation if Key is in fact stuck on the bench. Key, obviously playing last year, is not in an unfamiliar game.
Bruce Thornton, Justice Sueing, and Isaac Likekele will be key in this one as well. They are three starters that are big-bodied and will need to be able to work against Duke’s size and their ability to crash the glass on defense and offense.
Likekele has struggled offensively this season thus far but has been huge on defense and will have to guard multiple positions in this contest as he has been tasked with doing all season thus far. Two more interesting players are Sensabaugh and Roddy Gayle Jr., who can use their length and athleticism to their advantage by making it difficult for some of Duke’s larger wings to chase them around.
All in all, I think Ohio State wins this one on the defensive end, getting some crucial stops late on the Blue Devils.
ESPN BPI: Duke 58.4%
Time: 7:15 p.m. ET