Andrew Holleran / Photo editor
It’s been smooth sailing so far for the Ohio State men’s basketball team. Through four games, the Buckeyes (4-0) have been mostly untested, winning by an average margin of 22.5 points against teams with a combined record of 10-13 .
But potentially rough waters are ahead for the No. 4 Buckeyes, who will square off against No. 2 Duke in the ACC-Big Ten challenge Wednesday.
Unlike OSU, Duke (6-0) has already played and beaten opponents perceived to be among the nation’s elite. The Blue Devils dispatched then-No. 3 Kentucky, 75-68, on Nov. 13 and outlasted then-No. 2 Louisville, 76-71, Saturday.
“They’re obviously playing at a very high level right now,” said OSU coach Thad Matta.
As if playing against a talented squad isn’t enough of a challenge, OSU must also overcome a hostile road environment in the team’s first true road game of the season. Duke’s Cameron Indoor Stadium is arguably one of the loudest venues in college basketball.
“It’s going to be loud and crazy,” said junior forward Deshaun Thomas. “We’re just going to have to take one thing at a time and stay together down there.”
Duke will also likely be playing with revenge on its mind. The Buckeyes and Blue Devils met in Columbus last year for the ACC-Big Ten challenge, and OSU made easy work of Duke with an 85-63 victory. It was the most lopsided defeat that Duke suffered all season.
“We know that we’re probably circled on their calendar,” said sophomore guard Shannon Scott.
If the Buckeyes are to walk away with another win against Duke, Scott could be a major factor. Thus far, OSU’s three returning starters – junior guards Aaron Craft and Lenzelle Smith Jr., and Thomas – have largely carried the scoring load. But against teams with the talent and depth of Duke, OSU will likely need its role players to make an impact as well.
Scott proved he could do so in OSU’s most recent win by both scoring and creating shots for others. The sophomore guard had a career-high 10 points and a game-high 10 assists in the Nov. 23 win against Missouri-Kansas City, the first double-double of his career.
“I think I really just calmed down a lot from last year,” said Scott, who averaged 1.2 points per game as a freshman. “(Last year) I was probably kind of anxious to get on the court and make things happen right away. This year, I’m just letting everything come to me, so that’s really helped me out a lot.”
Scott’s father played at North Carolina in the late 1960s and had some run-ins of his own with the raucous Duke fan base. The elder Scott advised his son on what to expect Wednesday night.
“The one thing he really told me was to be ready for them to get on you,” Shannon Scott said. “Remain calm and we will be fine.”
Tip-off is set for 9:30 p.m., and the game will be televised on ESPN .