DURHAM, N.C. – The Duke Blue Devils’ eight-year run to the Final Four ended as the Ohio State Buckeyes’ 16-11 victory handed the two-time reigning NCAA champions their first loss in an NCAA opening-round game since 2001.
David Planning’s career-high six-goal, one-assist performance allowed Ohio State (12-6) to unload against a Duke defense that simply just got beat.
Carter Brown (4g), Colin Chell (3g), and Jessie King (2g, 2a) all supported the Buckeyes’ high-quality finishes to the net, as goalkeeper Tom Carey made 15 saves to earn the win.
Jack Bruckner led Duke (12-6) with three goals while Justin Guterding and Tanner Scott added two apiece to go with singles from four others – Case Matheis, Myles Jones, Deemer Class, and Kyle Rowe.
Goalkeeper Danny Fowler recorded the loss in making his first career NCAA Tournament start, making 11 saves in 52 minutes, while Luke Aaron provided some relief against an Ohio State offense that developed and maintained impressive shot conversion and goal scoring.
The Buckeyes simply finished better – 34 total shots with 27 on goal and 16 goals scored translated into a 59-percent conversion rate.
It was a pretty tough performance to match, but one that the Blue Devils were capable of matching.
“We started off great to the game,” Matheis said.
“We got some looks that we were prepared to get and then moving forward, they were great at taking us out of our comfort zone – forced us to make decisions – and in some cases, the wrong decisions that allowed them to build momentum and possess the ball more, especially in the second quarter.”
Duke’s 3-1 lead early in the second quarter gave the 2,015 in attendance at Koskinen Stadium the sense that the typical five or six-goal run was on its way.
However, it didn’t come, and everything that could lapse for Duke, eventually did.
Duke head coach John Danowski sensed it early on too.
“We did a lot of things where we looked nervous and tight” he said.
“I kind of sensed that in the second quarter, where defensively, it was the same things that were plaguing us all year.”
Ohio State went on a 6-0 run that gave them the lead which it never relinquished for the rest of the game.
“They weren’t really doing anything that we didn’t think they would be doing,” Duke long stick midfielder Brian Dailey said.
“It’s a game of runs. They’re gonna’ get theirs, we were gonna’ get ours.”
Duke still eventually scored 11 goals, but that was due to Ohio State coasting to the finish, leading 16-8 with 4:25 to play.
The Buckeyes used the clock to their advantage, and rather than going to the cage to score, they moved the ball around and denied giving the Blue Devils any time to put a monumental comeback run together.
“That second quarter, we turned the ball over way too much – with short possessions.,” Danowski said.
“Deemer turned it over once. Myles took a quick shot left-handed where the Ohio State goalie made the save. Case went to the goal and stepped in the crease. We missed a 4-on-3 when Brian Dunne ran into the crease. Those were four very quick possessions that didn’t help us. We failed to clear the one time when Brian Dailey threw the long ball against the 10-man ride. So, there were five possessions where we turned it over very quickly.”
Duke tried, but also didn’t get the exceptional scoring needed from Tewaaraton Award finalist Myles Jones who was held to a goal and an assist.
He had his chances, finishing with eight shots, four of them that made it through to Carey.
One beat the Ohio State keeper, but the others looked as though the nation’s top-scoring midfielder let him know ahead of time when every high-to-high shot attempt was coming.
Carey was not intimidated because Jones didn’t give him a reason to, while the Ohio State defense helped to support the effort.
“We try to get Myles after a pass to draw a slide,” Danowski said.
“We tried to draw a slide – we were having trouble drawing slides. They were doin’ a nice job defending us, and doing a nice job recovering. When they did, Myles had a couple of decent looks, but didn’t hit those. It’s almost like you have to play perfect, and nobody plays a perfect game. So, he doesn’t hit those couple and the team starts to deflate a little bit because guys are looking for somebody to step up and make those plays. Tonight it just didn’t fall. You have to give Ohio State credit – it was them defensively and it was them in the goal.”
It was a dramatic game to cover and watch the reaction to the end of a team’s run – one that’s resulted in three titles in five years.
It has been a long cycle of success at Duke that will now churn to regenerate itself.
“Like any business or industry, sometimes you need to be recalibrated a little bit,” Danowski said.
“You need to know that everybody comes after you when you’re on top. Maybe we lost our hunger a little bit. Maybe somewhere along the way, we thought it was gonna’ be easier than it was. And, there’s no way of knowing that until you experience it, until you live it. So, the hope it that this will be a stepping stone for next year’s group that returns a bunch of players. You know, there’s no guarantee that you’re gonna’ be better, but you hope that guys will be a little hungrier after this loss.”
For the Buckeyes, with another significant win on their resume, they may be hitting the upslope in confidence and performance that may continue to surprise and impress many in this year’s tournament.