A battle of the 3-ball commenced Thursday night with two of the best backcourts in college basketball facing off at Cameron Indoor Stadium, and Duke walked away with its biggest win of the season.
Although No. 8 Ohio State rallied from a 17-point deficit to tie it in the fourth quarter, it could not keep up with the 14th-ranked Blue Devils, who closed the game on a 12-3 run to win 69-60 in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Graduate students Lexie Brown and Rebecca Greenwell both led the charge with 19 points.
“We got better tonight. It was hard work,” Duke head coach Joanne P. McCallie said. “It was a very physical game and it's a great experience for us to go through that together and learn from it.”
The Buckeyes began the fourth quarter with a lot of energy, evening the score at 57 with a wide-open layup to cap a 22-5 run. Two Duke turnovers ended in buckets for the Buckeyes, but Greenwell eventually hit a layup to stop the bleeding and put Duke back in front.
A Brown triple extended the lead to five, and freshman Mikayla Boykin quickly earned two steals that resulted in fast-break layups to help the Blue Devils take control for good.
“At that point, I’m just trying to keep everybody calm,” Brown said. “We knew that they could make a big run with their shooting ability and how fast they are...we just had to stay cool, calm and collected to make a run of our own by slowing down on offense and getting big stops on defense.”
Hard work down low ultimately was the difference maker for Duke. Although the Blue Devils’ offense looked stagnant for some of the fourth quarter, 13 offensive rebounds in the game gave them second chances to run down the clock. The Buckeyes went cold from the 3-point line for the rest of the night, which silenced their hopes of getting back into the game.
Senior Erin Mathias notched her second career double-double with 10 boards and 10 points, dictating the game in the post. Her defensive energy and tenacity near the rim helped Duke outrebound Ohio State 49-30.
“Everyone was really vibing and playing together as a team,” Mathias said. “We all just kind of fed off of each other so I was just playing my game and doing what I could to help the team.”
The Blue Devils (6-1) came out with a lot of energy to begin the game, feeding off an energetic crowd and a deep Brown 3-pointer to open the scoring. Brown scored 13 of Duke’s first 21 points and finished the day 7-of-14 from the field with four triples.
Duke’s defense came out in full force, refusing to give anything up in the paint. Ohio State (7-2) only shot 27.8 percent from the field in the first half and took 18 3-pointers, as Mathias limited chances inside and had a two-handed block that led to a Brown 3-pointer in transition.
“They can put up a lot of points,” McCallie said. “But, I think our team did a good job of playing off each other defensively...particularly in the fourth quarter.”
Get Overtime, all Duke athletics
Signup for our editorially curated, weekly newsletter. Cancel at any time.
Despite Greenwell’s early troubles from the field, missing all four of her shots in the first quarter, Duke finished the period strong, leading 26-17. The Blue Devils received a spark off the bench from redshirt sophomore Haley Gorecki, who scored 10 points in the first half and spread the floor well.
“We really have six starters, including Haley,” McCallie said. “She just gives us enormous confidence off the bench.... Those seven rebounds in 26 minutes is exactly the type of game we need from our guards.”
Kelsey Mitchell, the leading scorer in the nation, finished with 24 points for Ohio State, but needed 27 shots to do it and was just 4-of-17 from long distance. Mitchell and her teammates entered the locker room facing a 12-point deficit and came out in a full-court press to begin the second half, but it backfired at first, as Duke stretched its lead to 52-35.
But turnovers still plagued the Blue Devils, who gave it away 21 times and allowed the Buckeyes to stay in the game long enough to get hot from 3-point range and make their run.
“We turn the ball over way too much, and that has got to stop,” McCallie said. “That can really come back to haunt you, so we have to improve on that as we go on to Sunday.”
Mitchell knocked down a pair of 3-pointers and Duke transfer Sierra Calhoun added two more 3-pointers to pull Ohio State all the way back, but the Buckeyes ran out of steam down the stretch.
The Blue Devils will go on the road to face No. 5 South Carolina Sunday afternoon to try and continue their winning streak through the toughest part of their schedule.