LIVE BLOG: Duke 83, Ohio State 67 (Final)

Duke 81, Ohio State 64, 1:07 second half: Put this one in the books.  Duke will pick up a major resume-building win tonight behind a career night from Jasmine Thomas, who has eclipsed her previous scoring high of 26 with 29 in this contest.  She made tough baskets in the clutch and accelerated through contact to rack up a bunch of tough 3-point plays.  Fittingly, she just stole the Buckeye inbounds pass to ice the game.

Duke 78, Ohio State 62, 2:17 second half: Thomas has been the player of the game for Duke in the second half, converting another 3-point play and then hitting a short pull-up jumper in transition.  She has 22 points in this half and has kept her foot on the accelerator the entire time.  Prahalis, meanwhile, just fouled out after committing a blatant reach-in foul on Thomas.

Duke 72, Ohio State 61, 3:58 second half: A driving layup from Karima Christmas has given Duke an 11-point lead heading into the final minutes.  Ohio State has abandoned its inside game for all intents and purposes, as Lavender is hardly calling for the ball anymore.  The hot shooters on both squads have cooled off, and it looks like this one will be decided with a lot of foul shots.

Duke 69, Ohio State 61, 5:11 second half: The pace of the game is finally starting to slow, as both teams seem to be tiring somewhat.  Lavender is at the line shooting two after what looked like a clean block from Thomas was judged to be a foul by the ref.  But no worries for the Blue Devils, as Jasmine Thomas just nailed a rainbow 3-pointer to give Duke an eight-point lead.

Duke 66, Ohio State 59, 7:08 second half: The Buckeyes refuse to throw in the towel, as Prahalis hit a fadeaway jumper with time expiring on the shot clock to keep Ohio State seven points back.

Duke 64, Ohio State 57, 9:07 second half: Bridgette Mitchell has caught fire, knocking down baseline jumpers on back-to-back possessions for Duke, the second of which was a 3-pointer.  Lavender finally got the ball in the basket and made the foul shot to complete a 3-point play.

Duke 59, Ohio State 49, 10:45 second half: A pair of Jasmine Thomas free throws gave the Blue Devils an eight-point lead, and she then proceeded to get a steal at midcourt that she took all the way in for a layup, getting fouled in the process.  She missed foul shot, however, but Duke still has its biggest lead of the game.

Duke 55, Ohio State 49, 11:13 second half: Vernerey just scored again on a tough fadeaway bank shot to extend the Duke out to six.  We're in the under-12 minute media timeout right now, and I wouldn't be suprised to see the Buckeyes draw up a play to get an open 3-pointer or maybe to get the ball to Lavender.  The center has been practically invisible in the second half.

Duke 53, Ohio State 49, 12:13 second half: The Blue Devils pushed their lead to seven, but the Buckeyes wasted no time closing the gap behind a 3-pointer from Schulze.  Vernerey is going to line looking to complete a 3-point play, evidence that Duke is not going to back down even as Ohio State has heated up on the offensive end.  She missed the foul shot, but it's nice to see that she hasn't been fazed by the frenetic pace of play.

Duke 47, Ohio State 44, 15:10 second half: The pace of the game is heating up dramatically, as Duke just reeled off two great plays on consecutive possessions.  First, Jasmine Thomas converted a 3-point play after being fouled while taking a short jumper.  Then Jackson got a steal and went coast-to-coast for an easy layup.  The Buckeyes came right back with another 3-pointer, but Jackson answered with a jumper to push the lead back to a slim three-point margin.  I'm having a hard time keeping up...

Duke 35, Ohio State 38, 17:23 second half: Coach McCallie called a timeout to cool off Johnson, and Duke responded well.  Krystal Thomas blocked Lavender again down low, but the Blue Devils made a costly mistake by fouling Sarah Schulze behind the 3-point line.  She made all three shots, and then Prahalis stole the ball from Jackson at the other end, leading to a pair of foul shots for Tayler Hill, who made both.

Duke 33, Ohio State 33, 18:33 second half: Well, so much for cutting down on Ohio State's 3-pointers.  Brittany Johnson has come out firing in the second half, making long-range buckets on back-to-back possessions to tie up the game.

Halftime Stats: Lavender led the Buckeyes in the first half with nine points, but she only shot 4-of-10 from the field.  Give credit to Krystal Thomas and Allison Vernerey for containing her in the post—they combined for three blocked shots—and making her take shots with a high degree of difficulty.  Ohio State shot 37% in the first half, well below its season average, and turned the ball over 12 times.

Duke turned those turnovers into nine points and outscored the Buckeyes 18-8 in the paint thanks in large part to the efforts of Vernerey, who leads the Blue Devils with 8 points on 4-of-6 shooting.  Jackson, Jasmine Thomas and Selby have five points apiece and Duke shot 41.9% overall.

The Blue Devils limited the Buckeyes to three 3-pointers in the first half, but those baskets were enough to pull Ohio State back into the game when it looked like Duke was poised to pull away.  Nevertheless, the Blue Devils have positioned themselves to win this game as long as they continue to play their tough man-to-man defense and smother Lavender on the blocks.

Injury update: Joy Cheek hurt her left ankle when she fell in the first half, but she is expected to return in the second.

Duke 31, Ohio State 27, Halftime: Ohio State turnovers really inhibited the Buckeyes' ability to close the gap in the waning minutes of the half.  But a turnaround jumper from Lavender that she banked off the glass cut Duke's lead to four going into the break.  Be back in a minute with more first half statistics.

Duke 28, Ohio State 25, 3:22 first half: Vernerey finally missed a layup in the post, but Duke is still finding ways to score, as Selby nailed a pull-up jumper in Prahalis's face and Karima Christmas took a loose ball at midcourt the other way for an easy layup.  Both teams have committed sloppy turnovers, but the Blue Devils have done a better job than the Buckeyes of turning those miscues into points.

Duke 24, Ohio State 19, 6:23 first half: Sophomore Shay Selby just made a superb hustle play, diving on the floor so she could beat Lavender to a loose ball right around midcourt.  The steal led to a short jumper from Jackson, and after a Duke defensive stop, Selby knocked down the Blue Devils' first 3-pointer of the night.  She decided to give herself a heat check on Duke's next possession, but this time her long-range shot clanked the back iron.

Duke 19, Ohio State 17, 8:26 first half: Jasmine Thomas converted a three-point play on the fastbreak to put Duke back on top.  Good outside shooting is keeping Ohio State in the game right now.  Hill nailed her second 3-pointer of the game, but Vernerey answered with another basket in the paint.  She just came off the floor to a standing ovation from the fans.

Duke 14, Ohio State 11, 11:43 first half: 6-foot-5 freshman Allison Vernerey has come off the bench and taken over the game for Duke.  The French native is 3-for-3 from the field, having her way with Buckeye center Andrea Walker down low.  Tayler Hill's timely 3-pointer prevented the Blue Devils from pulling away, but Duke certainly seems to be the more comfortable team on the floor right now, getting the shots it wants without much difficulty.

Duke 8, Ohio State 4, 15:08 first half: Joy Cheek just went down near the Buckeye bench, and she is limping off the floor.  Duke fans wanted a foul, but the play resulted in a Duke turnover, the Blue Devils' third so far by my count.

Duke 8, Ohio State 4, 15:48 first half: The Blue Devils are shooting lights out so far, as Joy Cheek converted two easy baby hooks down low, Jasmine Thomas stroked an elbow jumper and Keturah Jackson nailed a shot from the top of the key.  Lavender made her first shot, but Krystal Thomas has done a great job so far of frustrating her in the post without fouling.

Tipoff: The Buckeye fans are out in full force tonight, filling up most the section directly behind the Ohio State bench and populating several rows in the upper bowl as well.  They're not just sitting quietly either, as they broke out into "O-HIO!" and "LET's GO O'S" chants during warm-ups.  The Crazies, on the other hand, appear pretty reserved tonight.  The student section is about three quarters full(Maybe they're distracted by looming final exams.)

Ohio State will start off the game with a three-guard lineup, as Samantha Prahalis, Brittany Johnson  and Tayler Hill will complement Jantel Lavender down low.  Sharpshooter Sarah Schulze rounds out the unit.

Duke will trot out a starting five of Jasmine Thomas, Keturah Jackson, Bridgette Mitchell, Joy Cheek and Krystal Thomas.

Pregame: The No. 11 Blue Devils will face their toughest opponent of the season thus far when they square off against No. 3 Ohio State tonight.  This matchup has all the trappings of a March Madness game, as both teams will likely finish near the top of their conferences this year.  The Buckeyes (8-0) are powered by their 6-foot-4 junior center Jantel Lavender, who is averaging a near double-double this year with 24.3 points and 9.4 rebounds per contest.  Lavender, the defending Big Ten Player of the Year, arrives in Durham coming off her biggest game of the season.  She dropped 33 points on then-No.22 California last Sunday and collected 14 boards as well.  Ohio State beat the Golden Bears 83-71 in the only game the Buckeyes have played against a ranked team before tonight's tilt.

Lavender would be enough to give any team problems, but sophomore guard Samantha Prahalis gives Ohio State a potent inside-outside punch.  The 5-foot-7 guard and reigning Big Ten Freshman of the Year is averaging a double-double this season—in points and assists.  She ranks second in the nation in assists per game, averaging 10 dimes a night.   She also had a stellar performance against Cal, notching a career-high 14 assists.

If that's not enough to raise a few eyebrows, Ohio State is averaging 89.4 points per game as a team, good for third-best in the nation.  The Buckeyes are also 7th in the NCAA in field goal percentage, shooting at an astounding 49.4 percent clip through eight games.

Duke (5-1) will counter with junior guard Jasmine Thomas, who became the third player in school history to record a triple-double when she posted 11 points, 11 rebounds, and 12 assists in the Blue Devils' last game against Marquette.  Thomas leads the team in scoring with 14.2 points per game, and there should be a great battle tonight between her and Prahalis.  Forwards Bridgette Mitchell and Joy Cheek are also averaging in double figures.  Junior center Krystal Thomas, who leads the team with 13 blocked shots, will most likely draw the assignment of guarding Lavender and it will be interesting to see if she can contain the preseason All-American.

The Blue Devils look to protect their 17-game home court winning streak and pick up their fifth straight win, but that will obviously be no easy task tonight.  We'll be back with starting lineups closer to tipoff time.


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