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Commentary: Ohio State won, but the Blue Devils were beaten before they arrived

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Ohio State men’s basketball scored a memorable 85-63 win against coach Mike Krzyzewski’s Duke Blue Devils Tuesday night. The win was a convincing one, and Buckeye Nation has every reason to celebrate a victory against the iconic Blue Devils program. Bear in mind that the game may not have been an accurate measuring stick of how good the No. 2-ranked Buckeyes truly are, though. After all, Duke was partially beaten before it even stepped foot on the court due to its recent trip to the EA Sports Maui Invitational.

After OSU guard Aaron Craft opened the scoring Tuesday with a 3-pointer at the 18:07 mark in the first half, the Buckeyes never relinquished their lead. After the game, Krzyzewski said he was focused on preventing his team from losing by 30 points, and he succeeded — OSU’s eventual margin of victory was 22 points.

But there’s a catch.

As of Tuesday night’s visit to the Schottenstein Center, Duke was just six days removed from the conclusion of its tournament victory at the Maui Invitational in Lahaina, Hawaii. The Blue Devils’ stay in Hawaii saw the team play three games against Tennessee, Michigan and Kansas in three days from Nov. 21-23.

Krzyzewski talked at length about how OSU was more fresh than his team.

“They were a fresher team. I thought our team played tired,” Krzyzewski said. “They were just a lot fresher than we were.”

Fresher may be an understatement.

If you don’t think jet lag is a valid excuse, keep in mind that Lahaina and Columbus, Ohio, are separated by approximately 4,456 miles and four time zones.

Yeah, I think there might be something to Krzyzewski’s argument that his boys were beaten down by their hectic travel schedule.

Krzyzewski said that his team still may not have beaten OSU even if the Blue Devils were on top of their game, but emphasized his team’s “brutal schedule.”

“We’ve just played seven games in 13 days and we got back from Maui and we weren’t able to get us juiced up,” he said. “We just got back from a hellacious tournament in Maui. Any team that goes through that, you know, you have to get rejuvenated quickly.”

Those words may hurt some Buckeyes fans and they certainly diminish what some may consider to have been the biggest regular-season home victory in OSU men’s basketball history, but Krzyzewski is probably right.

Even OSU players, including Craft, agreed that Duke looked like a tired squad.

“Maybe a little bit,” Craft said. “Any time you come from where they did with a time change, there’s definitely going to be some jet lag. Whether they were extremely tired or not, I don’t know.”

Even the Buckeyes know they didn’t play a full-strength Duke squad, so perhaps it would be appropriate for Buckeye Nation to temper its excitement about beating the Blue Devils.

Make no mistake, the Buckeyes’ win bolsters their resume and strengthens any argument for a potential No. 1-seed come NCAA Tournament time in March. Does the gulf in talent between the two teams really equate to a 22-point margin of victory for OSU? Can we even be certain there’s a gulf in talent or ability between the two teams?

OSU coach Thad Matta may have best summarized the effect traveling to the annual tournament in Maui has on teams.

“Now you guys can stop asking me why we don’t go (to the Maui tournament),” Matta said.

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