Cody Cousino / Photo editor
As you’d expect for a game as highly anticipated as the one between Ohio State and Duke, half of the pre-game entrances were filled with cheers and the other half were filled with boos.
But on Tuesday night, those cheers didn’t initially come for Thad Matta and his Buckeyes, nor did the boos first come for Mike Krzyzewski and the Blue Devils. Instead it was former OSU players Evan Turner, Mike Conley, Jr., Greg Oden, Michael Redd and Scoonie Penn receiving cheers as they arrived to their courtside seats, moments before the Miami Heat’s Dwyane Wade and LeBron James received a chorus of boos on the way to theirs.
But with the stars of the NBA and OSU’s past lining the north baseline, the real stars Tuesday night were in uniform, as anyone who was looking forward to stat-sheet-stuffing individual performances from the No. 2- and No. 3-ranked teams in the nation didn’t walk away from the Schottenstein Center disappointed.
OSU’s trio of preseason National Player of the Year candidates combined for 58 points as the Buckeyes cruised to a 85-63 win. Totals in the OSU box score included 21 points and eight rebounds from preseason All-American Jared Sullinger, 20 points, five rebounds and four assists from William Buford, and 17 points, eight assists and five rebounds from sophomore guard Aaron Craft.
After the game, Sullinger attributed the Buckeyes’ domination against Duke to the team’s mental toughness.
“What can I say? This basketball team is something special,” Sullinger said. “We really kind of took them by their throats, and we really kind of pushed the ball, and we got a lot of easy baskets.”
Despite their large margin of victory, it wasn’t just the Buckeyes’ stars who put on a show. Highly touted Duke freshman guard Austin Rivers had a coming out party of sorts, as he led the Blue Devils in scoring with 22 points — two of which came by way of an ankle-breaking crossover and then lay-up as he was guarded by OSU’s Jordan Sibert.
Also starring for Duke was junior forward Mason Plumlee — a former McDonald’s All-American and 2009’s Mr. Basketball in North Carolina — who scored 16 points and added six rebounds for the Blue Devils on Tuesday night.
“Those two kids were excellent for us,” Krzyzewski said. “They’re going to get better. Our team is going to get a lot better by playing this level of competition.”
The efforts of Rivers and Plumlee weren’t enough, however, as not only did Duke have to deal with the star power of Sullinger, Buford and Craft, but that of an emerging star in OSU sophomore Deshaun Thomas. Also a former high school All-American, Thomas scored a season-high 18 points, including a buzzer beating jumper at the end of the first half to give the Buckeyes a 47-28 lead at intermission.
After the game, Thomas admitted that James’ and Wade’s presence played a role in inspiring him for his big game on the big stage.
“I saw them over there. They’re guys you watch in the NBA every day,” Thomas said. “It was great motivation to show off for them, ‘cause they show off for us when they’re on the TV.”
But while he looked like an NBA player Tuesday night, unlike James and Wade, Thomas’ star power was anything but booed by the sold out crowd of 18,809 at the Schottenstein Center.