Top-five foes take the court at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Wednesday evening, as the fourth-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes take on the second-ranked Duke Blue Devils as part of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
Mike Krzyzewski's Blue Devils have certainly embarked on a challenging start to their season, winning all six of their games, including clashes with a air of top-five foes at the time in victories over defending national champion Kentucky (75-68) and most recently, topping Louisville to claim the Battle 4 Atlantis crown last weekend.
Thad Matta's Buckeyes have won all their games on the docket as well, including winning the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Classic. Most recently, Ohio State moved to 4-0 with last Friday's rout of UMKC (91-45).
These two teams are meeting for the seventh time. Ohio State tied the series up at 3-3 with last year's 85-63 lopsided win in Columbus as part of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
The Buckeyes were able to empty the bench for much of the second half, as they cruised to a 46-point romp over UMKC. Deshaun Thomas led the team with 21 points and eight rebounds in the win. Four others finished in double figures as well, as Lenzelle Smith Jr. added 13 points to the cause, followed by Sam Thompson (11 pts), LaQuinton Ross (11 pts) and Shannon Scott (10 pts), who matched his scoring output with a game-high 10 assists. Ohio State shot a blistering .608 from the floor in the game, including .563 from behind the arc (9-of-16).
Ohio State has really excelled at both ends of the floor and as a result, enjoys a gaudy +22.5 scoring margin, averaging 79.8 ppg, while allowing just 57.2. In addition, OSU holds a +6.5 rebounding margin and is forcing 14.5 turnovers per game. Thomas has played lights out in the early going, converting 54 percent from the floor overall, 48 percent from 3-point range (12-of-25) and putting up 24.0 ppg. Aaron Craft runs the offense and is both a scorer (14.3 ppg) and deft distributor (5.2 apg). Smith rounds out the top scoring threats with 11.5 ppg.
The Blue Devils held a 23-9 scoring advantage at the free-throw line, a key in the team's five-point win over the Cardinals in the Bahamas. All five starters notched double figures in the win, led by Mason Plumlee's 16 points. Quinn Cook was right behind with 15 points, while Ryan Kelly, Rasheed Sulaimon and Seth Curry all added 14 points in the win.
Duke has been efficient at both ends of the floor as well, although its scoring margin (+13.2) isn't quite as eye-popping at Ohio State. However, the competition has been far stiffer. The Blue Devils are still averaging just under 80 points per game (78.2), while shooting .474 from the field. Mason Plumlee has become one of the ACC's top interior players. The 6-foot-10 senior is converting an impressive 67.2 percent of his shots, averaging a double- double with team-highs of 19.7 points and 10.0 rebounds per game. Seth Curry adds the perimeter balance at 17.0 ppg, while Sulaimon (12.0 ppg), Kelly (11.8 ppg) and Cook (10.7 ppg) provide more than enough firepower in support.