Ohio State stormed back from a 17-point third-quarter deficit Thursday night but didn’t have enough juice left to escape a raucous environment at Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham, North Carolina, in a 69-60 loss to No. 14 Duke.
“We had stretches where we did not play hard enough, we did not defend well enough to give us a chance to win,” coach Kevin McGuff said.
The eighth-ranked Buckeyes overcame a treacherous first half in their first true road game of the season. They allowed 43 points — 26 in the first quarter — and the Blue Devils shot 57 percent from the field to take a 12-point halftime lead.
“We were just really timid to start the game,” McGuff said. “We allowed them to do whatever they wanted, and they were just lighting us up. In the second half, we started to play with a lot more pressure, a lot more intensity, and it started to take them out of their rhythm and disrupt them a little bit, but we had none of that going into the first half.”
After allowing the Blue Devils to push the lead to 17 at 52-35 at the 6:47 mark of the third quarter, the Buckeyes responded by not allowing a field goal during a 14-5 run to close out the quarter.
In the first minute of the fourth quarter, a three-pointer by Linnae Harper and a layup from Stephanie Mavunga left the score tied at 57.
But the Blue Devils punched back, firing off a 9-0 run and keeping the Buckeyes scoreless for 4:53.
“That run really had us out of sorts,” McGuff said. “We just didn’t have an answer.”
Kelsey Mitchell had 24 points but struggled shooting, going 9 of 27 from the field and 4 of 17 on three-point attempts. Harper was the only other Buckeye to finish in double figures, with 12 points. She also led the team with eight rebounds.
Duke was led by redshirt senior guards Lexie Brown and Rebecca Greenwell, who finished with 19 points apiece. Brown had 13 in the first quarter.
The press that the Buckeyes used for much of the second quarter and thereafter was effective, forcing Duke into 21 turnovers, but Ohio State could muster only 14 points off takeaways.
The Buckeyes turned the ball over only 10 times, but six came in the fourth quarter, which stymied any chance of finishing the comeback.
“During that stretch late, we got really sloppy with the ball,” McGuff said. “We turned it over, and they made us pay.”