No. 25 Ohio State got exposed in a tournament game last week and learned lots from it.
Now it’s a matter of No. 17 Duke trying to show the same kind of bounce-back ability when it faces the Buckeyes in Durham, N.C., on Wednesday as part of the Atlantic Coast Conference/Big Ten Challenge.
Duke (6-2) lost 75-56 to then-No. 24 Purdue on Sunday in the final of the Phil Knight Legacy tournament at Portland, Ore.
“It doesn’t get any easier,” Duke coach Jon Scheyer said. “We played four games in seven days. We obviously have a lot of things we need to do better.”
The Buckeyes (5-1) responded from an opening-round loss in the Maui Invitational to then-No. 17 San Diego State by defeating Cincinnati and then-No. 21 Texas Tech.
A good portion of the Buckeyes’ recent success was connected to Justice Sueing, a senior captain who posted a career-high 33 points in the Texas Tech game.
Sueing is in the middle of writing his comeback story after missing nearly all of last season because of an abdominal injury.
“He has been through a lot,” Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann said. “He has had some struggles this year, too.”
The Wednesday game is a rematch of a 2021 ACC/Big Ten Challenge game that Ohio State won 71-66 in Columbus, Ohio.
Among those who played for Duke that night, only Jeremy Roach is still with the Blue Devils. He scored nine points in that game.
Sueing got hurt last November and didn’t play against Duke. The Buckeyes are bolstered this season by the addition of Sean McNeil, a transfer from West Virginia, and the arrival of their current leading scorer, freshman Brice Sensabaugh.
“Anybody on this team has the ability to score the ball and go off,” Ohio State forward Zed Key said.
It’s the defense that concerns Holtmann. He has seen too many breakdowns.
“The numbers (on defense) are not great,” the coach said, “so we’ve got to get better in that area.”
Duke’s freshman-heavy team is discovering a variety of challenges. The Blue Devils tend to be learning on the fly in some high-profile situations.
“This is an evolution for us,” Scheyer said. “In those key moments (of the Purdue game) … we get two threes blocked. You have to get shots off and that’s for us to continue to develop and practice and get to know each other.
“I think for all our guys, you think it’s going to be tough but you don’t know how hard it’s going to be in college. Now we’ve had a few experiences being here.”
The Blue Devils switched to a zone defense to deal with Purdue’s offense, something that Scheyer might utilize more this season.
“It’s something we have to be ready to go to,” Scheyer said. “We spend a lot of time building our habits with our man-to-man defense, so we’ve practiced it a couple of times. We’ve had it in our back pocket just in case, and I thought our guys did a good job on the fly to pick it up.”
Freshman forward Kyle Filipowski, who has reached a double-digit point total in every game for Duke, said he expects the man-to-man defense to be the staple.
“I don’t think we’ll come out to start a game in a 2-3 zone, but it helped us at times against Purdue,” Filipowski said. “We have to work on it more and we’ll be a lot better at it.”
–Field Level Media