Duke's stay at No. 1 in the AP Top 25 may not last longer than one week after the Blue Devils suffered a 71-66 loss at Ohio State on Tuesday night the day after rising to the top of the rankings. Ohio State star forward E.J. Liddell hit a contested jumper with 15 seconds remaining to put the Buckeyes ahead 69-66, and Duke freshman phenom Paolo Banchero missed a game-tying 3-pointer with three seconds left.
Ohio State closed the game on a 14-1 run, outscoring Duke 41-23 in the second half after trailing 49-34 with 18:21 to play. The Blue Devils (7-1) were held scoreless for the final 4 1/2 minutes of the game and the comeback victory prompted a court-storming at OSU's Value City Arena in celebration of a result that changes the trajectory of the Buckeyes' season. Ohio State (5-2) lost a six-point game at Xavier on Nov. 18 and dropped a 71-68 game against Florida on Nov. 24 on a .
But this time around, the Buckeyes thrived in crunch time. While it was Liddell who hit the late dagger, fellow bruiser Zed Key carried Ohio State for much of the night. The 6-foot-8 sophomore led all scorers with 20 points, including 11 in the second half. Liddell finished with 14 points, 14 rebounds and six assists.
Banchero once again had his best stuff in the first half, as he scored 10 points in the opening frame before going 0 for 7 from the field in the second half and finishing 4 for 14 for the game. The loss snaps a streak of 185 straight victories for Duke in games when it held a double-digit halftime lead, according to Jared Berson of ESPN Stats and Info.
Ohio State was more physical
Duke outscored Ohio State 38-30 in the paint, but that figure fails to illustrate who truly controlled the post. The Blue Devils were whistled for 23 fouls, compared to just 14 for Ohio State. Four Duke players ended the game with four fouls, and reserve center Theo John fouled out. Ohio State struggled to capitalize at the free-throw line, making just 11 of 22 from the charity stripe. But the Buckeyes found buckets in the paint via Key's interior touch when needed and outscored Duke 12-7 in second-chance points.
Cedric Russell comes alive
When Ohio State landed Louisiana transfer Cedric Russell late this past offseason, it seemed like a coup for the Buckeyes, who are replacing key guards CJ Walker and Duane Washington from last year's 21-10 team. But Russell, who averaged 17.2 points on 40% 3-point shooting last season, had been quiet in his first four games for the Buckeyes.
He picked the perfect moment for a breakout. Russell played a season-high 15 minutes and scored nine of his 12 points in the second half to help spark the Ohio State comeback. Ohio State trailed 62-55 when Russell checked back in with 5:50 remaining. With 2:32 left, he cut the deficit to 66-64 with a 3-pointer. Russell also pulled down a couple of key rebounds in the final minute before icing the game at the free-throw line with a pair of makes in the final seconds.
Duke's lack of shooting is an issue
There is plenty to like about the Blue Devils, who entered with wins over Gonzaga and Kentucky to back up their No. 1 ranking. But one thing that is coming into focus as an issue for Duke is its lack of outside shooting. The Blue Devils made just 4 of 14 attempts from 3-point range Tuesday and were only 1 of 8 from deep in the second half.
Duke entered ranked 204th nationally in 3-point shooting percentage at 33.1%, and that figure is inflated by good shooting nights against overmatched foes. Against the three quality opponents the Blue Devils have faced (Kentucky, Gonzaga, Ohio State), they are just 12 of 50, which is merely a 24% clip. This team lost its top outside shooters, Matthew Hurt and DJ Steward, from last season's team, and until it finds some consistency from deep, its offense will be subject to collapse like it was in the second half against the Buckeyes.