What To Watch: Ohio State at Duke

It will be No. 4 Ohio State at No. 2 Duke tonight in the featured match-up of this year’s ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

matta 11 27 12 mpg

In the video boxes, we have comments from OSU head coach Thad Matta (above) and players Lenzelle Smith Jr. and Aaron Craft (below).

On Tuesday, basketball columnist Lee Caryer shared this column on what to watch for at Duke tonight as well as an update on his Hondo Points category and more.

Here is our What We Learned feature for tonight’s game:

Opponent: Duke

* Where: Cameron Indoor Stadium (Capacity: 9,314); Durham, N.C.

* Date, Time: Tonight, 9:30 p.m. Eastern

* TV: ESPN (Announcers: Brent Musburger and Jay Bilas)

* 2012-13 Records: Ohio State, 4-0 overall; Duke, 6-0 overall.

players 11 27 12 mpg

* Key Players (2012-13 Stats): Ohio State – F Deshaun Thomas, 6-7, jr., 24.0 ppg, 7.3 rpg; G Aaron Craft, 6-2, jr., 14.3 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 5.3 apg; G Lenzelle Smith Jr., 6-4, jr., 11.5 ppg, 5.3 rpg; F LaQuinton Ross, 6-8, so., 6.3 ppg; C Amir Williams, 6-11, so., 3.5 ppg, 2.0 rpg; F-C Evan Ravenel, 6-8, sr., 5.5 ppg, 4.0 rpg; F Sam Thompson, 6-7, so., 5.8 ppg, 4.3 rpg; G Shannon Scott, 6-2, so., 7.3 ppg, 3.8 apg, 1.8 spg. Duke – C Mason Plumlee, 6-10, sr., 19.7 ppg, 10.0 rpg; G Seth Curry, 6-2, sr., 17.0 ppg, 2.3 rpg; G Rasheed Sulaimon, 6-4, fr., 12.0 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 2.0 apg; F Ryan Kelly, 6-11, sr., 11.8 ppg, 5.2 rpg; G Quinn Cook, 6-0, so., 10.7 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 5.5 apg; G Tyler Thornton, 6-1, jr., 4.0 ppg, 2.3 apg, 2.0 spg.

* Quality Of Opponent: Among the very best in the country. Duke was 27-7 last year and was knocked out of the NCAA Tournament in the first round by 15th-seeded Lehigh (75-70). That didn’t sit well, obviously, with coach Mike Krzyzewski, who has an NCAA-record 933 career wins to go with 11 Final Four berths and four national titles in his 32-plus years on the Duke bench.

Yes, the Blue Devils lost high scoring guard Austin Rivers to the NBA. But they seem to be flowing well right now after winning the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament last weekend. Already this year, Duke has wins over two of last year’s Final Four participants in No. 3 Kentucky (75-68) and No. 2 Louisville (76-71). Besides Louisville, Duke also took wins over Minnesota (89-71) and VCU (67-58) in the Battle 4 Atlantis.

* OSU-Duke Series: Duke and Ohio State are tied 3-3 in the all-time series. The teams are 2-2 on neutral sites and 1-1 in Columbus. This will be OSU’s first visit to Durham and the famed Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Ohio State won the last meeting, 85-63, in Columbus during the 2011 ACC/Big Ten Challenge as the Buckeyes were ranked No. 2 and the Blue Devils were No. 3. Duke’s last win over the Buckeyes came on Dec. 3, 2002, a 91-76 win at the Greensboro Coliseum. That was also an ACC/Big Ten game. Prior to that game, the schools’ last meeting came on Dec. 29, 1978, at the ECAC Holiday Tournament in New York, where OSU knocked off then-No. 1 Duke 90-84 in overtime.

Last year, the Buckeyes blew out to leads of 11-0 and 47-28 at halftime on its way to the rout at Value City Arena. Jared Sullinger led Ohio State with 21 points and eight rebounds. William Buford added 20 points, five rebounds and four assists. Deshaun Thomas added 18 points, connecting on 8 of 12 shots from the floor. Aaron Craft chipped in 17 points, eight assists and five rebounds. Austin Rivers led the way for Duke with 22 points, while Mason Plumlee had 16 points and eight rebounds.

Ohio State is 38-26 all-time against ACC opponents.

* Fun Facts: Ohio State’s late-season win at Michigan State last year (72-70 on March 4) snapped a nine-game losing streak in road games against top-five teams. That game was just the fourth time in 17 such games over a 40-year period that OSU had defeated a top-five team on the road. The other three wins in that time included at then-No. 4 Illinois in 1979 (69-66), at then-No. 1 Iowa in 1987 (80-76) and at then-No. 3 Indiana in 1991 (93-85) … The Buckeyes are 7-5 against top-five teams under Thad Matta. That included a 3-0 mark last year … Duke has won a school-record 96 straight home games at Cameron. The Blue Devils broke the previous mark of 95 with their Nov. 18 rout of Florida Gulf Coast (88-67). Duke’s last home non-ACC loss was to St. John’s on Feb. 26, 2000 … OSU is now 6-5 all-time in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge with four straight wins: At Miami (Fla.) in 2008 (73-68), Florida State in 2009 (77-64), at Florida State in 2010 (58-44) and Duke last year … Cook was the tournament MVP and Plumlee also earned all-tournament honors at the Battle 4 Atlantis … Krzyzewski is 1-1 against OSU with those two ACC/Big Ten games, while Matta is 1-1 against Duke. Besides last year’s win at OSU, his 2004 Xavier team lost to Duke in an NCAA regional final … Duke is 11-2 all-time in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge and leads all teams in wins and winning percentage. The Blue Devils are 4-0 when playing ACC/Big Ten Challenge games in Cameron Indoor Stadium … Duke has won 55 of its last 56 games in the month of November dating back to the start of the 2004-05 season. The lone loss was last season to Ohio State in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge … Cameron Indoor Stadium, opened in January 1940, was built at a cost of $400,000 … Under Matta, OSU is 112-20 in nonconference games and 43-5 in November games … Greg Paulus, OSU’s video coordinator, was a Duke point guard from 2006-09.

Craft had 17 points vs. Duke last year

* Match-Up To Watch: There are several that will be interesting. For starters, Duke probably has to put the 6-10 Plumlee or 6-11 Kelly on Thomas. What he gives up in size, OSU’s high scoring preseason All-American should more than make up for with a quickness advantage.

Likewise, OSU’s Ravenel and Williams will have their hands full contending with Plumlee, in particular, around the paint. He has had 16 points or more in every game so far this season.

Last year, OSU’s Smith went against Rivers at the two guard spot. But Curry has moved to the two guard spot and Cook has taken over at point. He has proven to be a solid force so far for the Blue Devils.

* What’s At Stake: This would be a huge resume game for Ohio State if the Buckeyes can go into Cameron and pull out a win. This Duke team has No. 1 seed written all over them. Moreover, this is a chance for Matta to take his relatively young OSU team into a hostile environment that will only serve this team as the Buckeyes play on the road in the Big Ten.

* What They’re Saying: Matta on what he wants to get out of this game: "You go into the game and you're saying, 'Hey, at the conclusion of this game, you're going to know a lot more about your team. With a road environment, it's going to be hostile, you're playing a great basketball team. From that perspective, as much as you want to look at (this one game), you're thinking long term as well."

OSU’s Smith on last year’s win over Duke: "I wouldn't say that game was easy. I just think it was a defining moment for our team. Coach Matta talks all the time about five guys being connected. It doesn't matter what team we would have played that game. I don't think anybody could have beaten us we were so connected. No one cared about anything other than winning that basketball game. Everybody had a job to do and everybody was focused on their job only."

Matta also on last year’s game: "(Duke) missed some really, really easy shots to miss the game, and it kind of ignited us. We've had some big wins, and that's definitely one that would rank up there."

OSU’s Craft on playing in tough environments: "We have a lot of guys like Lenzelle, myself, Deshaun and Evan Ravenel who have been in (tough) situations and understand what it's like. Some of the younger guys have been there but haven't experienced playing in it. We need to solidify ourselves as a basketball team, solidify our identity and understand as crazy as it's going to be down there — we're going to play in some crazy atmospheres this year — it is still a basketball game. It's going to come down to execution and what we have practiced up to this point. Hopefully we can have enough mental toughness to do it."

Smith on defending Curry: "He can shoot the ball really well. I'm definitely going to have to try to take that away from him. From the film I've seen, he puts the ball on the floor well. It's definitely going to be different than guarding Austin Rivers last year."

* Next On The Docket: The Buckeyes return home and host Northern Kentucky (0-4) on Saturday (4:30 p.m., Big Ten Network). That will be the first of seven straight home games leading up to the start of Big Ten play.

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