COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Ohio State led for less than six minutes against #1 Duke, but the Buckeyes somehow prevailed to upset the nation’s top team.
So how did OSU pull it off?
In the final five minutes of the game, Ohio State gave up one point. One point to one of the nation’s most lethal scoring offenses. That kind of defensive production comes from the top. Chris Holtmann has long been lauded as one of the country’s best coaches when it comes to neutralizing opponents’ offensive strengths.
Duke attempted six shots in the final five minutes, including three, three-pointers. Five of those six shots were jumpers even though the Blue Devils excel at attacking the basket, which is what they did in the first half to take a 13-point lead. But Ohio State wouldn’t let their guards drive and all six shots by Duke were well-contested.
“In the last 5 minutes they made one point, so we really dug in on the defensive side of the ball and locked in to what those guys was going to and it just felt good to come out one top, especially at home,” senior Cedric Russell said.
The Blue Devils also played with a smaller lineup in the final five minutes for two reasons. One was because their center, Theo John, fouled out with 6:26 left in the game. The other reason was because Ohio State went with a smaller lineup, playing Zed Key and E.J. Liddell on the court at the same time. Mike Krzyzewski decided to do the same, leaving his other center, Mark Williams, on the bench for most of the final stretch.
It wasn’t just the final five minutes where Ohio State stepped up on defense. The Blue Devils shot less than 40% from the field and only 22% in the second half. Ultimately, the win belongs to the Buckeyes’ stingy defense.
Get Duke in foul trouble
Duke committed 23 fouls against the Buckeyes. John’s foul trouble hurt the Blue Devils’ size advantage but more detrimental to Duke were the early fouls by Paolo Banchero.
The Blue Devils’ top player and potential No. 1 overall pick for 2022 committed three fouls in the first half, forcing the 6’10” forward to play a little more careful, which helped OSU create some offense.
Ohio State got to the foul line 22 times. The Buckeyes only made half of those attempts and if they were better from the charity stripe, the upset would’ve been by double digits.
OSU stopped giving the ball away
The Buckeyes committed 12 turnovers with nine coming in the first half. Uncoincidentally, Duke scored 13 points off turnovers in the first half and led by 13 points at halftime.
But OSU cleaned up its play in the final 20 minutes, allowing the offense to get into a rhythm and score 41 points compared to just 30 in the first half.
Ced and Zed
Cedric Russell and Zed Key played their best game at Ohio State to date in the win. Russell averaged less than six minutes a game entering the contest but played 15 minutes and hit several pivotal threes, including a shot in the corner with two and half minutes left to pull OSU within two points. He also made three-of-four free throws in the final two minutes to help OSU secure the win.
“Ced and Zed were the difference,” OSU coach Chris Holtmann said. “Cedric had a look in his eyes. He wanted to stay aggressive.”
Down low, Zed Key was the best player on the court. The sophomore scored a career-high 20 points and bodied Duke’s taller players all game long, scoring six points in a minute and a half span to keep OSU within two possessions as the second half drew toward the final five minutes.
There’s still room for him to grow, but Key is coming into his own as the Buckeyes go-to center.
“All those people that are clamoring for us to have a center: Please! Please! [Zed’s] a young kid who is growing. He is a center!” Holtmann said.