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November 29, 2012

BASKETBALL: No. 4 Ohio State fades against No. 2 Duke, 73-68

DURHAM, N.C. — No. 4 Ohio State looked plenty capable of accomplishing something no non-ACC team could do in more than a decade: Beat Duke on its home court.

Then, all of a sudden, things went wrong for the Buckeyes.

An untimely cold spell and an inability to stop No. 2 Duke down the stretch sent the Buckeyes to a 73-68 loss Wednesday night.

Deshaun Thomas scored 16 points to lead Ohio State (4-1) and Aaron Craft scored 11 on 3-of-15 shooting. His jumper with about 3:15 remaining was the Buckeyes' last until a dunk by Evan Ravenel in the final seconds.

"They just stopped guarding me towards the end, going under ball screens and things,'' Craft said. "Just couldn't knock down shots. Sometimes, that happens.''

Ohio State - a 52 percent shooting team - hit just 33.8 percent from the field in this one.

"If you had told me we were going to shoot 34 percent, I would have said we got ran out of the gym tonight,'' coach Thad Matta said.

The Buckeyes also had no way to slow Duke freshman Rasheed Sulaimon in the second half. He scored all 17 of his points after halftime.

"I let my teammates down in the beginning, not playing as well as I could be, and (coach Mike Krzyzewski) really got on me at halftime,'' Sulaimon said. "I just love these guys and wanted to go out there and respond.''

Mason Plumlee had 21 points and a career-high-tying 17 rebounds, and Ryan Kelly added 15 points and hit 3-pointers on consecutive trips downcourt early during the 20-7 run that put the Blue Devils (7-0) ahead to stay and sent them to their third win over a top-five team this month.

Shannon Scott pulled the Buckeyes within 66-64 with a free throw with 28.9 seconds left but had a critical turnover on the next trip down, and Quinn Cook sealed it by hitting six free throws in the final 27.3 seconds.

"We just didn't do a good job of staying together, and they started going on a run,'' Craft said. "We couldn't weather it.''

Cook finished with 12 points for Duke, which shot 58 percent in the second half - Sulaimon was 7 of 10 in the final 20 minutes - to remain unbeaten at home in the made-for-TV ACC-Big Ten Challenge and preserve its school-record winning streak at home against nonconference opponents.

The Blue Devils - who beat then-No. 3 Kentucky in Atlanta and then-No. 2 Louisville in the Bahamas - won their 97th straight against non-ACC visitors to Cameron Indoor Stadium.

But for much of the way, nothing came easy for them. They were outrebounded 40-37, couldn't get anything going on the offensive glass, struggled to keep up with Ohio State's quick ball movement and couldn't find their touch.

"When you play the schedule that we've played, this is not Xbox or fantasy stuff where these guys are healthy'' all the time, Krzyzewski said. "He just played three games (in the Battle 4 Atlantis), get back Sunday afternoon and go out and play these guys on Wednesday - that's an effort. That's a hell of an effort, and for a freshman, he got knocked back, and at halftime, I thought he responded ... and gave us a verve.''

Not to mention a spark, by hitting the first in a series of three straight 3-pointers that swung the game.

Sulaimon buried one from the key to pull the Blue Devils within 51-50 with about 6 1/2 minutes left. Kelly then hit 3s on consecutive trips down the court, including one in Amir Williams' face that put Duke ahead to stay, 56-53 - its first lead since the 14-minute mark of the first half.

"Once he hit those 3s, it was like, `Yes, we're here,''' Sulaimon said. "Once we got that lead, we weren't going to give it up.''

Plumlee followed up Cook's missed layup with a dunk that made it 58-54 with 4 minutes left and sent the rowdy Cameron crowd into ear-splitting madness. Sulaimon capped the run with a fast-break dunk that put Duke up 66-58 with just over a minute to play.

Lenzelle Smith Jr. had 11 points for Ohio State.

 

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