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Buckeyes claw back but fall to Duke, 81-72 in final Big Ten-ACC Challenge

Ohio State kept it close throughout, but was never able to close the gap.

NCAA Basketball: Ohio State at Duke Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

Following a 2-1 showing at the Maui Invitational last week, the No. 25 Ohio State Buckeyes (5-2) flew to Durham to take on the No. 17 Duke Blue Devils (7-2) at legendary Cameron Indoor Stadium. The game was part of the last ever Big Ten-ACC Challenge, which has been discontinued after 23 seasons.

Unlike the Buckeyes, Jon Scheyer’s Blue Devils were coming off a loss their last time out, getting thumped 75-56 by the Purdue Boilermakers in the final game of the PK 85 Invitational in Portland, Oregon on Sunday evening.

The Duke student section filled up early and let the Buckeyes have it from warmups onward, letting the visitors know that walking out of Durham with a win would be no easy task.

The task of winning on the road inside a hot, raucous Cameron Indoor Stadium did in fact prove to be too tall a task for this Buckeye team, as they fought till the end, but ultimately fell short against Duke, 81-72. Duke’s run late in the second half where they turned a two-point deficit into a 10-point halftime lead was too steep for the 25th-ranked Buckeyes to overcome in the second half.

Chris Holtmann rolled out the same starting five he’s used all season long: Bruce Thornton, Sean McNeil, Isaac Likekele, Justice Sueing, and Zed Key — who was the difference in last season’s win against Duke at home. Jon Scheyer countered with Jeremy Roach, Tyrese Proctor, Mark Mitchell, Kyle Filipowski, and Dereck Lively Jr.

Ohio State started hot courtesy of five points from McNeil right away, going up 5-0 after two minutes of play. But the Blue Devils got a spark from former Fighting Illini guard Jacob Grandison, who chipped in a layup and a triple for five early points of his own. Ohio State led 10-9 at the first media timeout.

The two teams continued to go punch-for-punch for much of the first half, with the Blue Devils shooting it at a higher clip while at the same time turning it over more than they typically do. Ohio State led 22-20 at the under-eight media timeout at the 7:13 mark, despite the Blue Devils’ seven offensive rebounds over that time frame. The Buckeyes got buckets from six different players over the first 13 minutes.

Proctor’s three-pointer at the 5:42 mark made it 25-22 Duke, and after Likekele split a pair of free throws, Ryan Young scored below the basket to make it 27-23. Chris Holtmann called a timeout as the Cameron Crazies began to raise the noise a few decibels.

Duke took a 39-29 lead at halftime, outscoring Ohio State 18-7 over the final 8:38 of the first half. Sueing’s two fouls hurt, as he played sparingly during the first half. The Buckeyes had nearly as many turnovers (10) and fouls (10) in the first half as they had made baskets (12), which typically is not a recipe for success. Filipowski led eight Duke scorers in the first half with nine points.

Duke pushed their lead out to 13 points early in the first half, but the Buckeyes were able to keep it within arm’s reach (generally) in the opening minutes of the first half. The two teams looked pretty evenly matched, but that stretch late in the first half where Duke pulled ahead was very costly for the Buckeyes, who now had to make up the deficit. Duke took a 52-46 lead into the under-12 media timeout with 11:57 remaining.

Ohio State continued to push it, cutting the deficit to five points repeatedly, but Duke still led 64-56 with 7:55 remaining in the game. Sueing and Key emerged in the second half to really push the Blue Devils, but the Buckeyes continued to shoot themselves in the foot with repeated turnovers — something they did not do at Maui last week.

The Buckeyes refused to die, answering nearly every Blue Devil basket with one of their own. But following a McNeil three that cut the lead to 72-67 with three minutes remaining, Filipowski snuck free and scored beneath the basket, while absorbing contact from Sueing. A foul was called, and Duke took a 74-67 lead with just 2:37 remaining.

Sueing and Key were both forceful in the second half, but turnovers and their inability to grab defensive rebounds in key spots bit them time and time again. Despite cutting the deficit to five points on more than one occasion, the Buckeyes suffered their second defeat of the season. Key led all scorers with 21 points, plus 8 rebounds, 3 blocks, an assist and a steal. Filipowski led Duke with 16 points and 7 rebounds.

If you didn’t catch Ohio State’s loss to Duke at Cameron Indoor, here are a few key moments and played that mattered the most.

McNeil puts Buckeyes up early

After putting up 22, 5, and 13 points apiece at the Maui Invitational, McNeil got the Buckeyes going with five quick points over the first two minutes of this one. He canned a three-pointer over the head of Mitchell to open the scoring, and then dropped in a soft floater from just in front of the basket with 18:15 to go in the first half to make it 5-0 Buckeyes.

McNeil would finish with 14 points on 5-13 shooting over 35 minutes.

Sueing picks up two early fouls, sits

Fresh off a 33-point performance in Maui, Sueing picked up two fouls over the first 3:09 of the game and had to sit for the majority of the first half. He only played 11 first-half minutes, scoring three points on 1-4 shooting. Sueing finished with 12 points on 4-10 shooting plus 7-8 at the free throw line. He also had five rebounds over 26 minutes, but his absence in the first half may have the deal breaker in the loss.

Grandison returns to haunt Buckeyes as a Blue Devil

Ohio State was already familiar with Jacob Grandison heading into this game, as the transfer guard played three seasons at Illinois and was a knockdown shooter throughout his tenure with the Illini. However, he was only averaging 5.5 points per game through Duke’s first eight games.

Tonight, Grandison knocked down three early shots to outdo his season average in the first six minutes of the game. He hit a three and two layups for seven early points. He finished with nine points, four rebounds, and two steals over 26 minutes.

Filipowski’s and-one ties it at 20

With Ohio State leading 20-17 with 8:50 to go in the first half, Roddy Gayle had his pocket picked at midcourt by Filipowski. Filipowski took it to the basket himself, as Gayle tried to stand firm to draw a charge, but Filipowski dropped the teardrop in the bucket and Gayle was called for a blocking foul. The big Duke freshman hit the free throw, tying the game at 20-20.

Likekele’s FT snaps a cold spell

The Buckeyes went scoreless for about three and a half minutes, with no points between Likekele's layup at the 8:38 mark and his free throw at 5:02. During that stretch, Duke turned a 22-20 deficit into a 25-22 lead.

Devils dominate the offensive glass

Duke was as good on the glass as advertised, out-rebounding Ohio State 19-17 in the first half while also grabbing nine offensive rebounds. The Blue Devils turned those nine offensive rebounds into nine first-half points, en route to a 39-29 halftime lead.

Roach T’d up, Buckeyes pull back within 10 for 21 seconds

Leading 45-33 in the second half, Duke’s Jeremy Roach was T’d up below the basket following a Lively dunk when he picked the ball up and tossed the ball in the direction of Isaac Likekele. McNeil hit both technical free throws to cut it back to a 10-point game, but Duke went the opposite way and got yet another dunk from the 7-foot-1 freshman center Lively at the 15:55 mark to make it 47-35 — a 12-point deficit yet again.

Key’s and-one gets Ohio State within six, but Duke hits the bonus with over 12 minutes remaining

As the saying goes, you have to beat Duke by 10 at Cameron Indoor to win by one. Whether the 25 fouls on the Buckeyes during the second half were the product of home cooking, lack of discipline, or a little of both, Sensabaugh’s offensive foul with 12:20 remaining was Ohio State’s seventh, meaning Duke shot free throws on every Buckeye foul the rest of the way.

However, Key’s spinning and-one layup on the right side of the basket with 11:57 left in the game got the Buckeyes within six points, and the ensuing free throw made it 52-47.

The Zebras, they’re taking over!

It’s important to note that this game had absolutely no rhythm as both teams racked up foul after foul after foul, especially in the second half. Duke picked up their seventh team foul with 10 minutes remaining — two minutes after Ohio State. Through the first 30 minutes of tonight’s game, the two teams combined for a whopping 34 fouls, meaning every single tick-tack foul sent someone to the free-throw line. The teams ended the game with a combined 45 fouls — 25 from OSU and 20 from Duke.

Speaking of which, Sueing and Key both made layups — plus the foul — at the 10:00 mark (Sueing) and 9:25 mark (Key), which brought Ohio State back within five points, 59-54.

Filipowski’s and-one bucket gives Duke much-needed breathing room

Moments after McNeil snapped off a corner three-pointer that cut Duke’s lead to 72-67, the big freshman Filipowski scored below the basket and was fouled by Sueing as well — his fourth. The free throw was good, giving the Dukies a 75-67 lead in the waning moments of the game.

Up Next:

Ohio State (5-2) returns to Columbus and will take on the St. Francis Red Flash (2-5) at Noon this Saturday. The game will be broadcast on Big Ten Network. St. Francis is No. 324 in KemPom this season. Last year, they went 9-21 overall and 5-13 in Northeast Conference play.