A battle of top five teams turned out to be no contest as No. 2 Ohio State routed No. 3 Duke 85-63 on Tuesday night in Columbus as part of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.
The Buckeyes (7-0) were never challenged in the second half after building a comfortable lead in the last 10 minutes of the first.
They saw an early 11-0 deficit whittled to one by the 10-minute mark of the first half then rattled off 29 of the next 40 points to take a 47-28 lead into the locker room at halftime.
Deshaun Thomas keyed the late run with 13 of his 18 points, including Ohio State’s last nine before intermission.
That included a 10-foot jumper that hit the front of the rim, bounced up off the backboard and in as time expired.
The shot was indicative of the type of night it was for the Buckeyes, who shot 59.3 percent (35 for 59) from the floor and 57.1 percent (8 for 14) from three-point range.
“It kind of fell into place,” Ohio State head coach Thad Matta said of the 29-11 stretch to end the first half. “(Deshaun had) a couple drives there with great finishes, he had a wide open three when they lost him and he had plenty of time to set that up. The last play of the half, the out-of-bounds play, was huge. We literally put that in today at shootaround and we got lucky because they went to sub and we changed the call and got a bucket on it. He’s got a knack for finding it.”
His team gave Duke little hope of a comeback in the second half by outscoring the Blue Devils 11-6 in the first five minutes after intermission to stretch their lead to 24 points.
The margin peaked at 25 when Aaron Craft hit a three-pointer with 6:37 to play.
Craft scored 17 points and turned in another stellar all-around game, adding eight assits and five rebounds while giving his usual relentless defensive effort. The sophomore point guard was 3 for 4 from three-point land and made 7 of 11 overall from the field.
“I thought Aaron had a great command of the game and we were getting the shots we wanted every time down,” Matta said. “That was a big thing. We kept saying we wanted to take great shots, and the guys did that.”
Sophomore big man Jared Sullinger led the Buckeyes in scoring with 21 points and added eight rebounds while senior William Buford added 20 points, five rebounds and four assists.
Thomas made 8 of 12 field goals, including 2 of 4 from behind the arc, and grabbed four rebounds. The mercurial sophomore admitted to being a little extra pumped up with former Buckeyes Greg Oden, Mike Conley Jr. and Daequan Cook and fellow NBA stars LeBron James and Dwyane Wade among those in a sellout crowd of 18,809 at Value City Arena.
“I was kind of like the X-factor today,” Thomas said. “I just came out with my teammates and tried to be out there and have fun.”
The Buckeyes not only outshot the Blue Devils (7-1), they also beat them on the boards and outscored them in second-chance points (15-9) and on the fast break (6-4).
Freshman point guard Austin Rivers led Duke with 22 points while forward Mason Plumlee added 16 for the Blue Devils, who lost a November game for the first time since 2006.
Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski had a simple explanation for what happened to his team during the decisive run in the first half.
“We couldn’t hit a shot,” he said. “Their defense was outstanding, and then they got hot. They can score from a number of different positions. They had a great crowd. They had a lot going and they took advantage of everything. They were just really good. Congratulations to them. We can be good, too. We were not good tonight and they had a lot to do with that.”