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Duke falters late in loss at Ohio State. Here’s what we learned about the Blue Devils

·4 min read

A 15-point second-half lead melted away as foul trouble unsettled No. 1 Duke in its first road game of the young college basketball season.

Try as they might, the Blue Devils couldn’t find enough offense to keep their record perfect.

Duke scored just one point over the game’s final 5:18 and Ohio State scored the game’s final 12 points to beat the Blue Devils 71-66 Wednesday night at Value City Arena.

Zed Key led the Buckeyes (5-2) with 20 points, including two free throws with 1:03 to play that gave Ohio State its first lead since the first half. He added two more with 15.4 seconds left.

Wendell Moore scored 17 points for Duke (7-1) and Paolo Banchero scored 14.

Duke lost 6-10 reserve center Theo John to five fouls, while 7-1 sophomore center Mark Williams wasn’t as aggressive as usual defensively after picking up his fourth foul with 10:09 to play. Duke went with a smaller lineup over the final 3:20 due to the foul difficulties.

Banchero had three fouls in the first half and was called for his fourth foul on a charging call with 2:06 remaining.

Behind 10 points each from Banchero and Moore in the first half, Duke led 43-30 at halftime.

The Blue Devils scored on their first three possessions of the second half to build a 15-point lead. But Duke’s offense hit a dry spell, making just 1 of 14 shots during a stretch that included eight consecutive missed shots and a scoring drought of 4:41.

A 3-pointer in transition by Justin Ahrens pulled Ohio State within six points at 53-47 with 12:31 to play.

Banchero drove in the lane to draw a foul with 11:39. He hit two free throws. With 11:07, Banchero’s lob pass toward the rim resulted in a Mark Williams slam dunk. Those were the only points Duke scored from 16:20 to 7:50.

But Ohio State couldn’t draw closer than six points because Duke’s defense kept the Buckeyes from putting together any sort of run to overtake the Blue Devils.

After Duke’s lead was trimmed to 53-47, Ohio State scored on just one of its next seven possessions.

When Trevor Keels hit a 3-pointer with 7:16 to play, Duke’s lead had grown back into double-digits at 62-51.

But the Blue Devils went cold again down the stretch and the win slipped away.

Here’s what we learned about the Blue Devils.

Duke responded well to a road game, until it didn’t.

Tuesday night was Duke’s first game of the season on an opponent’s home court and the first in front of a capacity crowd on the road since February 2020 prior to the pandemic being declared.

Ohio State built an early 13-7 edge and had its crowd energized and into the game. But the Blue Devils responded well to the difficult situation, reeling off a 13-2 run to take a 20-15 lead.

Duke held that lead until 1:03 remained when the Buckeyes finally moved in front again.

Duke can play zone defense too

Late in the first half, Duke held a lead but found Paolo Banchero with three fouls while Wendell Moore and Mark Williams each had two.

Banchero didn’t play the final three minutes of the half after an offensive foul call.

Despite those obstacles, Duke turned a seven-point lead into a 43-30 halftime edge by employing a zone defense that confused the Buckeyes.

Predominantly a man-to-man defensive team, Duke’s zone held Ohio State to just one point over its final four possessions of the half. The Buckeyes failed to hit a field goal over the final 2:54 of the half.

Don’t expect Duke to go full Syracuse with the zone looks, but that’s a nice tool to have at its disposal for a different look.

Duke’s gets a break

The Blue Devils moved to No. 1 in the Associated Press Top 25 on Monday but gets a break from games for a bit after its first loss.

Duke is now on a two-week break from games so its players can concentrate on final exams. The Blue Devils next play on Dec. 14 against S.C. State. After that game, Duke has two more nonconference home games -- Appalachian State (Dec. 16) and Cleveland State (Dec. 18).

The Blue Devils will be heavily favored in all three of those home games.

From that point for the rest of the regular season, Duke faces nothing but ACC teams. With the Blue Devils the only ranked team currently, that league slate doesn’t look like the murderer’s row it normally does.

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