Five observations from Duke men's basketball's first half against Ohio State

Senior captain Joey Baker gave the Blue Devils a needed boost in the first half.
Senior captain Joey Baker gave the Blue Devils a needed boost in the first half.

COLUMBUS, OHIO—In its first matchup as the No. 1 team since the 2019-2020 season and first true road game of the season, Duke goes into the locker room 43-30, with a late surge from Paolo Banchero helping extend the Duke lead.

The villains of college basketball are back

College basketball road games, you’ve been missed.

After a 2020-21 season of road games, marred by COVID and a lack of fans, the Blue Devils are finally playing in a true road environment for the first time since a February 2020 matchup against Virginia. And the Buckeye fans made themselves heard from the very beginning, as their raucous boos as the Duke team came out of the tunnel easily overpowered the cheers of the smattering of Blue Devil fans that made the trip. 

And it only got louder once the game started.

Duke offense rattled early

After a couple early baskets put Duke up 4-2 early, the Blue Devil offense lost its way—just as the Ohio State offense was finding its rhythm. A quick 6-0 run by the Buckeyes, helped along by a couple missed jumpers and a turnover from the Blue Devils, put Duke in an 8-4 hole. But just as the crowd was really getting into it, Duke came up with a key stop-and-score, as a monster Mark Williams block set up a Jeremy Roach three to bring the Blue Devils within one.

Banchero bottled first

Well, it didn’t look like cramps in this one, but the ACC Freshman of the Week was unusually quiet to start the half. After erupting for 20 points in the first half of Duke’s Las Vegas matchup with Gonzaga, Banchero didn’t score at all through the first 10 minutes of this one, taking just two shots and missing them both. But Banchero is too talented to be held scoreless for too long, as he picked up an and-one just past the 10-minute mark and finished the half with 10 points.

Strong to the paint

After beginning the first half with jump shots and loose layups, the Blue Devils began to go back to their bread-and-butter—take it to the hoop. On three straight possessions, the Blue Devils took the rock to the basket and got the hoop-and-harm, making two of the three possible free throws, as they extended their lead. The Buckeyes fought back with some aggression of their own, but Duke immediately responded, as Williams threw down a massive dunk to bring the Duke lead back up to eight.

Player of the half: Joey Baker

You won’t see his name best represented in the box score, but Duke’s lone senior captain had an undeniable impact in the first half of this road test. 

After the Blue Devils fell behind by six—their largest deficit of the half—a quick layup by Baker got Duke started on a quick 6-0 run to bring the two teams level once again. Two plays later, with the teams trading buckets, a steal by Baker led to a turnaround jumper from Theo John, giving the Blue Devils a lead that they wouldn’t relinquish for the remainder of the half.


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