It was certainly a tough loss for the Buckeyes on Wednesday night in Cameron Indoor Stadium. In a venue holding 9,000 of the craziest college basketball fans in the country, the raucous crowd certainly took advantage of the Buckeyes.
Ohio State finished shooting 33.8% from the field, including a 3-15 performance from Aaron Craft, who was seemingly geeked out by the Duke faithful, in a completely uncharacteristic performance. In the second half, the Buckeyes couldn’t buy a bucket while the Blue Devils came alive, dominating Ohio State and closing the game out in the final minutes.
It was heartbreaking. Ok, maybe not heartbreaking, but heartwrenching, watching Ohio State compete throughout the game and leave Durham, North Carolina empty handed. No one likes “moral victories”, and this wasn’t one, but you have to take away the positives and build upon them as you delve into the depths of the Big Ten schedule and the rest of the regular season.
First and foremost, the Buckeyes should have won that game. Plain and simple. They should have been the first team since 2000 to walk into Cameron Indoor as a non-conference opponent and beat the Blue Devils. They controlled the first half and, even as their control slipped in the second half, were still within striking distance of a win in the second half. When a leader like Craft has one of the worst games of his career, in nearly every aspect, it’s tough to even stay in the game, much less win it. DeShaun Thomas couldn’t take his normal accumulation of shots thanks to the tough Duke defense, and those shots he did take just simply, with the exception of his 3-6 effort from behind the line, were not falling. While posting up and then turning around and making plays is DeShaun’s game, the Duke defense made it hard for him to do that or even to pick and pop with Aaron Craft. Duke is a tremendous defensive team and handled the two biggest offensive threats for Ohio State quite easily.
Amir Williams was great on the boards. He dominated for most of the first half on the glass, grabbing six offensive boards, and allowed the Buckeyes to control the game. Unfortunately, in the second half, he was completely out performed by Mason Plumlee and rightfully so. Plumlee is a very polished and fundamentally sound basketball player. Williams, at this point, is nothing but a huge body in the middle. I was impressed with his free throw shooting as well; 4-6 isn’t all that bad for a big guy. Amir has to continue to grow and with more experiences like these, he will.
I was very pleased with Laquinton Ross’ effort last night, but I’m still left wondering why Thad took him off the floor in the second half. In the first half, Ross accounted for 9 points and looked to be one of the only Buckeyes who wasn’t completely out of it on the offensive end. His long arms caused problems for Duke’s offense as well. The second half, however, we saw little to no action for Q and it showed in Duke’s dominant effort.
Shannon Scott was the second garbage point guard for the Buckeyes yesterday. While Craft had an off-kilter evening, Scott was just as terrible. Not only screwing the Buckeyes out of an opportunity to get back in the game with less than a minute left, Scott was 1-8 from the field throughout the contest. He often seemed out of control and tried creating his own shots which didn’t really work out in his favor.
Lenzelle Smith Jr. really surprised me with an off night Wednesday. It’s one thing to miss shots, it’s a whole different story when you miss shots and play basketball that we are completely unaccustomed to seeing. Lenzelle was selfish with the basketball last night. No, not Kobe selfish, but for a single game he was selfish. His selfishness, while not unwelcome as no other Buckeyes could seemingly score the basketball, was very uncharacteristic. It wasn’t necessarily a bad thing for Smith Jr. to be selfish, but it was definitely a sign that all was not right for the Buckeyes.
Overall, I think the Buckeyes definitely held their own. We all know that Ohio State’s strength is going to be on defense, and the Buckeyes showed that yet again in last night’s ball game. The problem is going to be finding someone outside of DeShaun Thomas to put the ball through the hoop. Aaron Craft, who many believed would be the offensive answer, struggled last night, but can still be that second option the Buckeyes are so desperately looking for. Lenzelle Smith Jr. and Laquinton Ross can certainly help quench the Buckeyes offensive thirst as well.
Duke is obviously an incredible basketball team. Undoubtedly the most well-coached team in the country, with arguably the most talent in the country, paired with the craziest gymnasium in the country, Duke has advantages that no other school can boast. They’ve already beat 3 of the top programs in college basketball and will look to knock off plenty more along the way to March. T
The Buckeyes should be encouraged by their efforts. In a neutral arena, I think Ohio State wins that game. They just seemed to jumpy and nervous to play solid basketball. Even at their offensive worst, they stayed in the game, and almost won it. Craft’s performance really made me believe that Cameron Indoor is an absolute advantage. Craft is usually the most calm and intelligent player on the floor and last night, he looked as if he didn’t know which way was up.
I’m sure as the Buckeyes season moves forward, they will gain from this experience. They have a tough B1G schedule this season and this experience against Duke will only help them. I have a feeling we’ll meet the Blue Devils again and next time, the Buckeyes will certainly know what they’re in for.