By Peter Koutroumpis
DURHAM, N.C. – The No. 14 Duke Blue Devils notched another win onto the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) peg board with a 69-60 win over No. 8 Ohio State at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Thursday night.
The ACC/Big Ten Challenge match-up featured two of the top Power Five conference scoring guard duos in the country as the tandems of Lexie Brown/Rebecca Greenwell of Duke (36.2 ppg, No. 7 overall) and Kelsey Mitchell/Linnae Harper (43.8 ppg, No. 1 overall) of Ohio States went head-to head.
In the end, while matching 19-point finishes from Brown and Greenwell barely topped 36 points combined from Mitchell (24 points) and Harper (12 points), a double-double, 10 points and 10 rebounds, from Duke’s Erin Mathias as well as a game and career-high 13 rebounds from Leaonna Odom minimized Ohio State’s Stephanie Mavunga to only seven points and seven boards, way below her season averages coming in.
Duke (6-1) held the potent Ohio State offense to a season-low 60 points, 32 percent shooting, and outrebounded the Buckeyes (7-2) by a 49-30 margin.
The win moved Duke to 9-2 in ACC/Big Ten Challenge play.
“Just a great basketball game,” Duke head coach Joanne P. McCallie said.
“Again, another NCAA [tournament] game in November as we head into December. I loved the rebounding, the boards are very important to us, the rebounding is important, the differential is important.”
Duke led 43-31 with double-digit contributions from Brown (15), Mathias (10), and Gorecki (10) part of 57-percent shooting output compared to Ohio State’s 30 percent.
Strong rebounding from Odom, Mathias, and Gorecki kept Mavunga to only a point in the half.
“They were really doing some of the blue collar dirty work,” McCallie said of her post players.
“It’s tough work down there and that’s important for them to know how they can do that and impose their will because that’s really what it was about.”
With Ohio State evening the score 55-55 with 9:15 remaining, the Blue Devils stayed the course and continued to wear the Buckeyes down on the boards and in the paint to eventually regain the lead and hold on to it for the remainder of the game.
“I thought we got some good looks around the basket but couldn’t finish,” Ohio State head coach Kevin McGuff said.
“Overall, their defense was good. They played harder and tougher for closer to 40 minutes than we did, and I think ultimately that was the difference. They out-rebounded us 49-30, so if that’s not an indication of who played harder than I don’t know what is.”
Duke led 11-8 at the midpoint of the period fueled by Brown’s shooting.
Harper contributed seven points early for the Buckeyes, supported by two 3s from Doss.
From three feet beyond the three-point line, Brown kept the Blue Devils ahead 18-13 with 2:12 remaining.
Both Mavunga and former Blue Devil Sierra Calhoun subbed out following an OSU timeout.
Another three from Brown extended the Duke lead to eight.
A tip-in at the buzzer from Mathias had the Blue Devils ahead 26-17 heading into the next period.
A 2-3 zone slowed Ohio State slightly while Brown continued to carry Duke early.
Greenwell continued to struggle from the field, and held only a free throw to her credit with Duke leading 31-23 with 7:30 to play.
In addition to driving, Brown worked a pick-and-roll with Mathias to perfection and pushed the Blue Devils lead back up to eight.
Greenwell finally hit her first field goal, a three, at the 5:30 mark.
Gorecki’s three-pointer gave Duke its first double-digit lead, 39-27, with under five to go.
Missed layups, shots, and turnovers denied the Buckeyes opportunities to pull closer.
Duke committed similar mistakes, but luckily without much consequence, and led 43-31 at the break.
Play continued at a frenzied pace as both teams traded baskets.
Mavunga strung together two baskets in the paint while Greenwell drained a three and to more field goals.
Duke led 51-35 with 6:44 to play.
Back-to-back baskets from Mitchell, a five-point swing had the Blue Devils leading by 12.
Ohio State got possessions and the opportunity to pull closer and cut the Duke lead to 55-50 with 2:34 to play.
A jumper from Calhoun following a rebounding battle, pulled the Buckeys to within three.
With 24 seconds remaining, a big block on Mavunga from Jade Williams and a resulting foul allowed Boykin to add two free throws that pushed the Duke advantage to five, 57-52.
A quick three from OSU’s Harper followed by a Mavunga layup tied it up at 55 apiece at 9:15, the result of a Greenwell turnover at midcourt.
Greenwell’s jumper a minute later gave Duke the lead back.
Following an Odom block on Mavunga, Brown converted a shot beyond the arc at the other end of the court and the Blue Devils led 62-57 with 6:49 to play.
Two consecutive steals by Boykin allowed Duke to extend its run to nine points, leading 66-57.
Mavunga returned a block on an Odom drive to the hoop, and Mitchell eventually dropped a three following the OSU transition.
The Buckeyes forced a turnover as Harper caught Greenwell off-pace.
However, a traveling call on Mavunga gave Duke the ball back, leading 66-60 with 2:58 to play.
Even while having trouble scoring inside, Greenwell laid one in to extend the Duke lead to eight.
With under a minute to play, Ohio State could not drop a shot from inside or outside as the Blue Devils continued to dominate on the boards and held the Buckeyes to only eights points in the period.
The bottom line
“Erin and Leaonna really came up big,” McCallie concluded.
“That’s the first time this year we’ve had two double-figure rebounders; that’s important to us as well. I thought Lexie was just great, handling a lot of pressure and starting us off well and rebounding, which is very, very important. I thought Becca just kept getting after and played very, very hard, really went after it in the second half. To hold them to 32% from the floor, that’s obviously a positive for us.
“I just think the team has to go through those experiences and everyone has really stepped up.”
Peter Koutroumpis, 401-323-8960, @pksport