In their first two ranked matchups of the season, the Blue Devils faltered. Presented with a third chance Wednesday, they seized that opportunity on their home floor.
Matched up against No. 25 Ohio State in a rematch of last season’s thrilling ACC/Big Ten Challenge duel, No. 17 Duke got its biggest win to date under first-year head coach Jon Scheyer, taking down the Buckeyes 81-72 Wednesday evening. The Blue Devils built their lead to as high as 13 points and, behind five double-digit scorers and rejuvenated play from freshman center Dereck Lively II, quelled each and every comeback attempt thrown their way by head coach Chris Holtmann’s squad inside Cameron Indoor Stadium.
“You think about our program, and what it means to me, what it means to us,” Scheyer said after the game. “It's not necessarily that we're perfect, but you get knocked down, you get right back up. And it doesn't always translate to a win, but I thought that was our attitude going into tonight's game, and we played nine guys and all nine of them made some winning plays.”
Despite a competitive first 20 minutes, Duke (7-2) entered the locker room with a 39-29 lead. For as evenly matched as the Buckeyes (5-2) kept matters from there, the 10-point Blue Devil advantage never fully disappeared. Still, Ohio State remained alive late, with graduate guard Sean McNeil’s 3-pointer making it 72-67 Blue Devils with just more than three minutes to play.
Seven-foot freshman Kyle Filipowski, though, had one last Duke response on the other end. On the very next play, he muscled his way to the hoop for the layup plus the foul, stopping Ohio State’s last best chance and securing his team’s marquee win.
The three-time reigning ACC Rookie of the Week was crucial for the Blue Devils, narrowly missing out on his fifth double-double with 16 points and seven rebounds in the win.
“I think a few games, we've tried to respond to runs by getting threes up and taking tougher shots, and today we were getting to the rim, getting offensive rebounds, getting layups and drawing fouls,” Duke center Ryan Young (10 points, five rebounds) said. “… I think it shows a level of maturity. And we got to just keep getting better at that.”
As Duke stretched its lead early in the second frame, the 7-foot-1 Lively began to put together his best offensive performance as a Blue Devil. Shortly after converting an acrobatic lay-in from Jeremy Roach, Lively got a foot in the paint and finished off a three-point play the old-fashioned way, putting Duke ahead 48-35 in the process.
The No. 2 recruit in the 2022 class, Lively set a new career-high in scoring with 11 points in 18 minutes against the Buckeyes, and he added two blocks to boot.
“For him, it’s just getting comfortable, developing his offensive game,” Scheyer said of Lively. “And in fairness to him, we’ve missed him. One of the best things he does is he puts pressure on the rim in pick-and-roll. … [Roach] actually hit him on a couple plays tonight. That's something we need to look for more.”
The Blue Devils threatened to pull away, but the Buckeyes bit into their deficit as the half went on. Junior forward Zed Key—whose previous career-high of 20 points came in Ohio State’s upset of Duke a season ago—was crucial to that effort. Every time a Buckeye run seemed to be dead in the water, Key responded to keep his team in the ring for another round. He finished with team-highs of 21 points and eight rebounds in a losing—yet individually outstanding—effort.
Ohio State jumped out to an 8-2 advantage, but Filipowski took the early spotlight Wednesday evening. The freshman broke through at the rim to give the Blue Devils their first score of the game after three fruitless possessions to start, earning significant defensive attention from the Buckeyes in return.
One beneficiary of Filipowski’s early offense was Jacob Grandison, who hit his first shot and Duke’s first 3-pointer of the game off of a heads-up Filipowski feed to the corner. The graduate wing momentarily carried the torch from there, scoring seven points in a row for the Blue Devils and giving them their first lead at 11-10 by putting back his own missed shot off the glass.
“Probably didn't play him as much as I should have on Sunday. Plays eight minutes, positive attitude, he comes back and has a heck of a game,” Scheyer said of Grandison, who finished with nine points in 26 minutes. “... He really gave us a big [jolt]. He had seven quick points and had great energy.”
While it was Filipowski and Grandison early in the first half, freshmen Tyrese Proctor and Dariq Whitehead picked up the slack for the Blue Devils in the final minutes leading into the break with both sides looking for an offensive boost. Both players hit threes for Duke, with Whitehead’s shot from the corner putting the Blue Devils—who shot just 12-of-59 from 3-point range at the Phil Knight Legacy—ahead 34-25 with under three minutes left in the half.
Wednesday night’s tilt at Cameron Indoor carried added significance as the final Duke outing in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. The event, which began in 1999, will be replaced by the new ACC/SEC Challenge beginning in the 2023 season. With this most recent win, Duke moves to 20-4 overall and 3-2 against Ohio State in ACC/Big Ten Challenge play.
Before resuming their nonconference schedule, the Blue Devils welcome Boston College at 4 p.m. Saturday for their first ACC game of the season.
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Jonathan Levitan is a Trinity senior and was previously sports editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.