This is going to be the argument this week – Have Duke done enough to take over the number one spot in the nation, at least with the voters, at the expense of Indiana? A very big night from Mason Plumlee and yet another win over a top 5 opponent suggests that the Blue Devils deserve that spot.
Duke just don’t lose to non-ACC rivals in Cameron, that’s a known fact. Ohio State did its best to become the first team in 97 visits to upset the Blue Devils, but terrible shooting in the second half, combined with an awakened Duke early after the break, resulted in a 73-68 win for the ACC team, as the two conferences were tied at 6-6 in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.
Mason Plumlee finishes with 21 points and 17 rebounds, a career high (in rebounds) for the senior, who’ll be turning 23 by the time March Madness comes around. Plumlee has been the consistent factor in Duke’s impressive start to the season. While Seth Curry, Quinn Cook and Rasheed Sulaimon have all had their ups and downs in the big games for Duke, Plumlee has been big each and every time. He had 18 points in the win over Kentucky; 16 points and 7 rebounds in the win vs Louisville, and now his best night of the season (averaging 19.9 points & 11 rebounds) vs Ohio State.
The win also brought out Freshman Sulaimon into the spotlight for the first time. While Seth Curry was having a terrible night (4 points, 0 assists), Sulaimon continued his rise and accustoming himself to life in the NCAA. He had 14 points against the Cardinals, and scores 17 against Ohio State, all of them in the second half. The fatigue from the previous tournament and the big game atmosphere were a bit too much for him early on.
We just played three games ,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.
Sulaimon wasn’t the only one knocked back by the Buckeyes. For the first time this season, Duke had to rally back from an early deficit in a match they seemed not fit enough to hang on in. Everyone began remembering the 22 point loss to the Buckeyes from last season. But than Ohio State’s quick pace and ball movement stopped creating open shots, and even when they did get those opportunities they missed and missed and missed, finishing with 33.8% from the field and 28.6% from beyond the arc.
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. I just love these guys and wanted to go out there and respond.
It wasn’t just Sulaimon that responded. Ryan Kelly finished with 15 points and hit back to back three pointers during a 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.
There’s a nice blend of new and old (as old as you can get from a College team) on this Duke team, but it’s clear they’re going to have trouble down the road against the fast and athletic teams, even if their opening doesn’t suggest so. If Plumplee can be this kind of double double monster each night and the rest follow his consistency, Coach K might actually have some national championship material to mess with.