DURHAM — Duke’s youngest starter proved to be the answer to its struggling offense Wednesday night.
Freshman Rasheed Sulaimon scored all 17 of his points in the second half as No. 2 Duke rallied from a 10-point second-half deficit to beat No. 4 Ohio State 73-68 in an ACC-Big Ten Challenge game at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
"At halftime, he responded," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said of Sulaimon. "He had 17 points in the second half and he gave us a verve, gave us a real verve."
Sulaimon missed his only two shots in the first half when Duke shot 30 percent and trailed 31-23 at intermission.
But the 6-4 guard from Houston hit 7 of 10 over the final 20 minutes. That included a pair of 3-pointers.
"I didn't start off like I was supposed to," Sulaimon said. "I didn't play as hard as I could in the first half and it was kind of a mental game in the first half. Coach got on me. I really wanted to win for my team."
Sulaimon’s play ignited a Duke (7-0) offense that struggled to get and make open shots against Ohio State’s half-court defense in the first half. Duke’s Mason Plumlee provided scoring inside with 21 points and 17 rebounds.
In the final minute, after Duke had missed the front ends of three one-and-bonus situations, sophomore point guard Quinn Cook sank six consecutive free throws to seal Duke’s win.
The Blue Devils made 58.1 percent of their shots after halftime.
"We weren't panicking," Plumlee said. "We just knew we had to make adjustments. We knew we weren't going to score 20 points again in the second half. We made our adjustments and the guys stepped up."
Early in the second half, Ohio State (4-1) built a 33-23 lead before the Blue Devils took off on offense.
Sulaimon sank a 17-foot jumper, added a 3-pointer and later drove the lane to hit a runner. Cook had two assists on Plumlee dunks before driving to score on a bank shot high off the glass as Duke climbed within 42-38 with 11:55 to play.
Duke, which shot 30 percent in the first half, hit 9 of 16 shots to open the half. Ohio State still held a 46-42 lead before Seth Curry, who had missed his first five shots, scored on a bank shot to leave Ohio State with a 46-44 lead.
Duke hadn’t been that close since the game’s early minutes.
With 6:50 to play, Sulaimon drilled a 3-pointer trimming the Buckeyes’ lead to one at 51-50. Ravenel sank a jumper off a Craft pass, but Ryan Kelly sank a 3-pointer with 6:11 left to tie the score at 53.
Kelly’s 3-pointer with 5:38 to play put Duke up 56-53, the Blue Devils’ first lead since they were up 9-7 in the first half. Despite being in foul trouble most of the game, Kelly finished with 15 points on 5 of 10 shooting.
"We were kind of hoping he hadn't found his rhythm yet and obviously he did tonight," Ohio State coach Thad Matta said. "He had clean looks and it was falling and he knocked them down."
Plumlee’s follow-slam off a Cook miss with 4:04 left gave Duke a 58-54 lead.
Craft scored in the lane with 3:12 left before Smith blocked a Kelly dunk attempt. Craft had a chance to tie the game but misfired badly on a bank shot.
Plumlee’s free throws with 2:22 to play restored Duke’s lead to four points at 60-56.
Craft made one of two free throws for Ohio State. But the Blue Devils milked the clock before Cook drove the lane to score with 1:31 to play and Duke led 62-57.
When Thomas missed a 3-pointer, Sulaimon scored a transition basket on a goal-tending call at the other end for a 64-57 lead with 1:16 left.
"This just shows we found a way to win," Plumlee said. "Guys hit big shots. Ryan hit big shots. Quinn hit big free throws. We always have different guys stepping up."
Unable to reliably find open shots in the first half, the Blue Devils shot 30 percent and made only 1 of 7 3-pointers. Of its 23 first-half points, Duke had 10 from the free throw line.
Ohio State, meanwhile, gained a huge advantage in rebounding, grabbing 11 offensive rebounds. That allowed the Buckeyes to attempt 14 more shots.
Duke was fortunate that the Buckeyes only hit 32.4 percent of their shots to build that eight-point halftime edge.
No. 2 DUKE 73, No. 4 OHIO ST. 68
Percentages: FG .338, FT .727.
3-Point Goals: 6-21, .286 (Thomas 3-6, Ross 1-2, Craft 1-4, Smith, Jr. 1-6, Thompson 0-1, Scott 0-2).
Team Rebounds: 5.
Blocked Shots: 2 (Williams, Ravenel).
Turnovers: 7 (Craft 3, Thompson 2, Scott, Ross).
Steals: 4 (Scott 2, Thompson, Thomas).
Technical Fouls: Smith, Jr.
Percentages: FG .471, FT .741.
3-Point Goals: 5-12, .417 (Kelly 3-5, Sulaimon 2-4, Curry 0-1, Cook 0-2).
Team Rebounds: 2.
Blocked Shots: 5 (Kelly 3, Thornton, Mas. Plumlee).
Turnovers: 8 (Cook 3, Mas. Plumlee 2, Sulaimon, Curry, Kelly).
Steals: 3 (Cook 2, Thornton).
Technical Fouls: Thornton.
Ohio St. 31 37—68
Duke 23 50—73
Officials—Karl Hess, Mike Eades, John Cahill.
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