TOP 25: Sullinger scores 21 as No. 2 OSU routs No. 3 Duke
AP Sports Writer
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) – Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski was asked about an Ohio State player and almost chuckled.
“I wasn’t focused on each of their guys,” he said. “I was trying not to lose by 30.”
It was that kind of night for the third-ranked Blue Devils.
Jared Sullinger scored 21 points and three teammates were close behind as No. 2 Ohio State roared out to an 11-0 lead and never looked back in rolling to an 85-63 victory Tuesday night in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
Buckeyes fans chanted “overrated” at the Blue Devils in the final minute.
NBA star LeBron James had a front-row seat for the rout, but he was booed loudly when he walked to his courtside seat with Miami Heat teammate Dwyane Wade. That was about the only time the fans expressed any dissatisfaction with anything on the court.
“This basketball team is special,” Sullinger said.
The Buckeyes (7-0) never trailed, weathering a Duke rally in the first half and then leading by 20 for most of the second half.
“Sometimes you just get your butt kicked,” said Krzyzewski, who said his young team appeared tired.
Austin Rivers had 22 points and Mason Plumlee 16 for the Blue Devils (7-1), coming off wins over ranked opponents Michigan and Kansas in their previous two games.
William Buford scored 20, Deshaun Thomas 18 and Aaron Craft 17 for the Buckeyes, who gave the Big Ten a 4-2 edge in the conference matchups. Craft also had eight assists and five rebounds and was a terror on defense.
Few would have expected such a lopsided result. Duke came in with a record of 11-1 in ACC/Big Ten games and had beaten its last five Big Ten opponents – including conference bullies Michigan State and Michigan already this season.
The Blue Devils had also won their last four games in which both teams were ranked in the top five.
The Buckeyes led by 24 with 15 minutes left after Craft banked in a 3 – he laughed after it clanked in. The Blue Devils responded with a 7-0 run to get as close as 58-41 but Ohio State continued to control the paint. Sullinger was fouled and hit two foul shots, then powered up a shot off the backboard for a 66-43 lead shortly before clock trouble allowed both teams to take a breather with 8:42 remaining.
On consecutive possessions, Ohio State got a dunk by Sullinger and a 3 by Craft thanks to around-the-horn passing that found an open player.
“We were taking great shots,” Craft said of the Buckeyes, who shot 59 percent from the field and made 8 of 14 3-pointers. “It all started with Jared inside. That just opens everything else up.”
It was a festive, rock-concert sort of a capacity crowd of 18,809 at Value City Arena for the game, which was billed as the biggest nonconference home game ever for Ohio State.
One female student held up a sign meant for Sullinger that said, “Jared, will you marry me?” When Rivers – the son of Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers – had a turnover, the Ohio State student section chanted, “Daddy’s boy! Daddy’s boy!”
The first half was a shocker, with Ohio State setting the pace early, shrugging aside a Duke comeback and then pulling away for a gaping 47-28 lead at the break as Buford and Thomas each had 13 points.
“I was sort of the X factor,” Thomas said with a grin.
The Buckeyes ran off the first 11 points – five by Craft and four by Buford – while Duke’s younger players appeared nervous and tentative.
“They just jumped on us from the beginning,” Plumlee said. “We weren’t ready to play.”
After Plumlee ended the cold start with a shot over Sullinger 4 minutes in, the Blue Devils regained their balance as Rivers and Seth Curry took turns beating the Buckeyes off the dribble for layups.
Plumlee’s reverse dunk – the crowd howled that he traveled – cut Ohio State’s lead to 18-17 at the 9:50 mark.
But just that quickly, the Buckeyes – who won their 29th in a row at home – streaked away again.
After Buford made two foul shots, Sullinger hit a leaner off glass and Plumlee protested his second foul, with the Buckeyes sophomore completing the three-point play. Substitute guard Jordan Sibert went high over the rim to tip in a miss before Buford scored in transition. Thomas then tossed in a half-hook from the left baseline to cap a 10-0 run that made it 28-17.
During that spell and beyond, the Buckeyes scored on eight consecutive possessions. When Craft hit a 14-foot jumper off a kickback pass from Sullinger at the 5:38 mark, it was 34-21. The lead never dropped below double digits again.
The Buckeyes, typically a mild-mannered team on the boards, won the rebound battle (33-27) and outscored the Blue Devils 15-0 at one point on second-chance points.
It was Duke’s second game in Columbus. In the only other meeting in Ohio’s capital city, the Blue Devils won 94-89 in double overtime on Dec. 30, 1964, at old St. John Arena.
The Blue Devils had won their last 35 games in November, dating to a 73-62 loss to Marquette in 2006.
But not tonight.
“I’ve had my butt kicked before,” Krzyzewski said. “We’ve kicked some butt. Tonight my butt’s sore.”
Follow Rusty Miller on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/rustymillerap .