Ohio State Basketball: 10 Things We Learned in Buckeyes' Win over Duke
If you had any doubts about how Ohio State would fare this year after losing several key players, Tuesday night should have swayed your opinion.
Ohio State took down one of college basketball's elite in an 85-63 rout over the Duke Blue Devils. You don't hear the word rout used often to describe Duke's losses, but the Buckeyes took it to them the entire 40 minutes.
This is the second win over a top 10 team for the Buckeyes in just seven games this season. After defeating Florida back on Nov. 15, Ohio State now has two big wins to put on their resume for the tournament in March.
So, after a huge win over a college basketball powerhouse, what did we learn about the Buckeyes?
The Buckeyes Are Serious Contenders
Ohio State was ranked No. 3 in the preseason, and after moving to the No. 2 spot and defeating two top 10 teams, the Buckeyes are clearly among the best in the nation.
Duke is no slouch. Coach K always has his team prepared, and he admitted after the game that he got his butt kicked. The Buckeyes had nearly a 20-point lead at halftime and remained in control the entire way.
They still have a long road ahead of them, but it's clear that Ohio State is a legitimate contender this season.
Thad Matta's Formula Works
Last season, we saw Thad Matta basically stick to one core group of guys on the floor. Last night, he used the same strategy to defeat the Blue Devils.
The starting five for Ohio State scored 79 of their 85 points on the night. There is plenty of talent on their bench, but Matta relied on his starters to lead them to victory.
Sullinger Can Hang with the Big Boys
Duke has plenty of size down low, and many speculated that they would keep Sullinger in check in their matchup. He proved his doubters wrong last night.
Sully finished with 21 points and eight rebounds for the game. He was able to position himself low on the block often and got some good looks inside. Analysts have already put Sullinger on the Naismith watch, as he continues to be a dominant force for the Buckeyes.
The Three Ball Is Getting Better
I noted before the Duke game that Ohio State has been dealing with issues on the perimeter. They haven't shot well from downtown, but things looked much better Tuesday night.
Aaron Craft led the way with three threes, and the Buckeyes shot 8-of-14 as a team from beyond the arc. They haven't really needed much of a perimeter game against the weaker opponents they've faced so far, but it was clear that their strong shooting pays off against a top team. They will need to continue this trend against tougher opponents moving forward.
Aaron Craft Is Becoming a Great Leader
Aaron Craft is only in his second season at Ohio State, and he's already stepping into the role as the leader of this team.
Craft has always been held in high regard for his defense, but every facet of his game was outstanding last night. He passed the ball well, played solid D and shot the ball well, adding 17 points of his own.
Sullinger and Buford are the biggest names on the team, but everyone should keep Craft's name in mind.
Austin Rivers Is Going to Be Big
I believe Dick Vitale said last night that Austin Rivers has more moves than Baskin-Robbins does flavors. While this is clearly a gross overstatement, Rivers showed off what he could do against a top-ranked challenger.
The freshman led the way in scoring for Duke with 22 points on the night, including a pair of deep threes that had his father, Doc, smiling from the crowd. Ohio State kept most of the Dukies in check, but Rivers was still impressive.
Ohio State Moves the Ball Well
The Buckeyes had great ball movement last night and constantly passed on shots to make that extra pass.
Aaron Craft finished with eight assists on the night, and the team had 18 total for the game. Sullinger was a main beneficiary of the nice passing, as they found him open down low for an easy lay in several times.
They looked like a team that has played together for a long time. This is good news for the rest of the 2011-2012 season, because their chemistry can only get better.
They Need to Drive More
One of the only problems I saw in Ohio State's offense was the lack of penetration. They only had 10 attempts from the line, and Sullinger had seven of them.
Their shooting carried them to victory, as they shot over 59 percent from the floor, but that's not going to happen every game. It would be nice to see them drive the lane more often and try to draw more fouls and get to that line.
Ohio Fans Hold Grudges
LeBron James showed up to support the Buckeyes, but the fans didn't really care why he was there. James received plenty of boos as he was sitting courtside, reminding us all that Cavaliers fans are probably never going to support him in anything he does.
Plenty of stars came out one of the biggest games of the season. Michael Redd, Dwyane Wade and Mike Conley were just a few of the celebs among the crowd.
Value City Arena Gets Loud
Home court advantage always helps, and Columbus has proved that they don't only care about football in their city.
Value City Arena was packed again last night. Students began camping out well before Tuesday night, and they made sure Duke knew they were there. Cameron Indoor has always been one of the toughest places to play, but Ohio State had the edge this time with their fans.