A year ago Duke was fresh off a victory in one of the preseason island tournaments, and headed to Columbus to face the top five Ohio State Buckeyes. Prior to that game, the Duke team seemed somewhat nervous during warmups. Two hours later it was apparent as to why. Ohio State blew out the Blue Devils by 22 points -- prompting head coach Mike Krzyzewski to note he spent most of the game figuring out how to "lose by less than 30". Coach K also noted that his team seemed tired and somewhat lethargic after a heavy travel schedule early on.
Fast forward a year and Duke is once again sporting some preseason hardware after winning on an island. They've come home and will face a top five team from Columbus. So what's different this season? The answer lies in the Duke backcourt where Quinn Cook appears to have answered the call for an elite floor general. Duke is also far more battle tested this season, having already defeated two top five teams in Kentucky and Louisville.
Meanwhile, this will be the first true test for the Buckeyes who have rolled through Albany, Rhode Island, Washington, and Kansas City en route to a 4-0 record.
The game will tip off at 9:30 PM EST and will be broadcast on ESPN by Brent Musburger and Jay Bilas.
"Only the Catamounts from Western Carolina. I can still remember, it was like 28-28, and I blacked out, and I woke up and it was 62-30." — Thad Matta
"They missed some really, really easy shots to start and that kind of ignited us. That was one of those game that'll rank up there [in his career at OSU]. That game was one that allowed us to become connected and really learn something about ourselves." - Matta on his team's performance a season ago versus Duke
"My favorite part about going on the road is we have 15 guys against everyone in the building. It shows how close you need to be as a team. You have to understand that nobody is going to help you aside from your teammates." - PG Aaron Craft.
Series Notes: This will be the seventh meeting between the two programs with each team having won three times before. Ohio State will be making its first trip to Durham, N.C. The teams are 2-2 at neutral sites and 1-1 in Co- lumbus. This is the third time the teams have met in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, with each team winning once. Last year Ohio State won by 22, while Duke's win was by 16 during the 2002-2003 season.
Two losses from a year ago: A season ago the Buckeyes relied heavily on William Buford and Jared Sullinger. Both players have moved on to the professional ranks, which has required more scoring and all around performance from the upperclassmen. Answering the call has been the junior class of Aaron Craft, Deshaun Thomas and Lenzelle Smith Jr - all of whom started a season ago. Craft averages 14.3 points a game, up from 8.8 a season ago. Thomas tallied 15.9 ppg. as a sophomore and is up to 24.0 ppg. this year. Smith Jr. has upped his scoring from 6.8 to 11.5 points per game.
Thomas, a junior preseason All-American, scored a career-high 31 points against Washington and tallied 25 vs. Rhode Is- land to average 28.0 points per game over two contests at the Basketball Hall of Fame Tipoff Nov. 17-18. Those efforts earned him his second career Big Ten Player of the Week award. Thomas grabbed 10 boards against Rhode Island and eight vs. the Huskies to average 9.0 rebounds over that weekend. A season ago he hit Duke up for 18 points and five rebounds.
Don't sag off 'em: The Blue Devil program has a reputation of relying on the perimeter jumper, but on Wednesday night Duke may very well be the second best three point shooting team on the floor. The Buckeyes currently lead the country in three point shooting percentage, having connected on a remarkable 32-of-67 attempts from behind the arc as a team. Inidividually, Thomas is shooting 48 percent from the perimeter (12-of-25), while Craft is hitting just under 47 percent (7-of-15). Smith, Jr has knocked down eight of his 13 three point attempts (62 percent).
For the season the Buckeyes are averaging eight made three pointers per game, and, traditionally, when OSU hits 10 or more threes, they are nearly impossible to beat. Under Thad Matta, Ohio State teams are 54-9 when reaching double digits from 3-point range. Opponents are 37-58 all-time against Ohio State and 9-32 during Matta’s tenure when making 10 or more treys.
Value the basketball: Not only does Ohio State make opponents pay when getting open looks, the team is also excelling at taking care of the basketball, boasting a 1.63-to-1 assist to turnover ratio as a team. It begins with Craft, the junior point guard who started his career by building a reputation as a defensive stopper. Now, as a junior, the 6-foot-3, former four star prospect is the unquestioned leader in Columbus and is running the show with a practiced hand. On the season Craft has recorded 21 assists while committing just three turnovers. Backup point guard Shannon Scott has been on the same pace as his mentor, recording 15 assists against just three turnovers in three games.
Defensive prowess: As noted above, Aaron Craft began his career withe reputation of a lock-down defender. He's already third on the school's all-time steals list with 177 in a little more than two years played, and last year he took home Big 10 Defensive Player of the year honors. Backcourt running mate Lenzelle Smith has also developed the reputation as a tough on-the ball defender, and Ohio State has a pair of shot-blockers defending the rim in Sam Thompson and Amir Williams (both averaging 1.5 blocks per game). Through four games the defense has overwhelmed opponents by holding them to just 57.2 points per game and shooting percentages of just 38 percent from the field and 33 percent from the perimeter.
courtesy of Duke Sports Information
- Duke, ranked No. 2 in the latest AP Poll, has been ranked in the top 10 of the poll 97 consecutive weeks. The last time Duke was not ranked in the top 10 was Nov. 19, 2007. Duke is 21-12 under Coach K when both teams are ranked in the top five of the AP poll. The Blue Devils are playing their 183rd straight game as a top-10 team in the AP poll. Duke is 152-30 in that span.
- Duke has won 55 of its last 56 games in the month of November dating back to the start of the 2004-05 season. The lone loss was last season to Ohio State in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
- Duke is 110-16 all-time when ranked No. 2 in the country. The Blue Devils have won four straight games when holding the second spot in the AP poll.
- Mason Plumlee has shot 50.0 percent or better from the field in each of the past 12 games dating back to last season. Plumlee is 68-of-102 (.667) from the field, including 41-of-61 (.672) this season.
- Quinn Cook entered the starting lineup prior to the Florida Gulf Coast game and has responded by averaging 12.3 points, 3.5 rebounds and 7.0 assists over the last four contests. Cook was named ACC Co-Player of the Week and Battle 4 Atlantis MVP after guiding Duke to wins over Minnesota, VCU and No. 2 Louisville last week.
- Mason Plumlee is shooting 80.0 percent from the charity stripe, while taking 7.5 free throw attempts per game. Plumlee entered the season shooting 50.5 percent from the free throw line in his career.
- The Blue Devils have made 117 free throws on the season, while allowing their opponents just 107 free throw attempts. Duke has made 20 or more free throws while shooting over 80.0 percent from the line in three consecutive contests.
01 Deshaun Thomas (6-7, 225, Jr.) - 24.0 ppg, 7.3 rpg
12 Sam Thompson (6-7, 190, So.) - 5.8 ppg, 4.3 rpg
30 Evan Ravenel (6-8, 260, Sr.) - 5.5 ppg, 4.0 rpg
32 Lenzelle Smith (6-4, 205, Jr.) - 11.5 ppg, 5.3 rpg
04 Aaron Craft (6-2, 190, Jr.) - 14.3 ppg, 5.3 apg
03 Shannon Scott (6-1, 180, So.) - 7.3 ppg, 3.8 apg
10 La Qinton Ross (6-8, 225, So.) - 6.3 ppg, 3.0 rpg
23 Amir Williams (6-11, 220, So.) - 3.5 ppg, 2.0 rpg
55 Trey McDonald (6-8, 225, So.) - 1.3 ppg, 1.0 rpg