ACC / Big Ten Challenge: Plumlee, Sulaimon Help Duke Rally Past Ohio State

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This is the time of year when “teaching losses” and “teaching moments” are in full effect, when coaches dissect the videotape of an early-season slip-up as a coaching tool for their younger players.

Mike Krzyzewski doesn’t yet have that footage to show his Blue Devils. They just survived a gauntlet of a non-conference schedule unblemished. So after Duke’s thrilling, 73-68, comeback win over No. 4 Ohio State to even up the ACC / Big Ten Challenge, Coach K will have to use Wednesday night’s performance as a “teaching win” instead.

Nov 28, 2012; Durham, NC, USA; Duke Blue Devils forward Mason Plumlee (5) is greeted by head coach Mike Krzyzewski as he comes out of the game with two seconds left against the Ohio State Buckeyes during the second half at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark Dolejs-US PRESSWIRE

Despite getting little production from a hobbled Seth Curry, spending most of the game with Ryan Kelly in foul trouble and having to recover from a dismal first-half performance, the Blue Devils unpacked a new way to win a basketball game—a new method for knocking off a top-ranked opponent.

Duke shook off a sloppy first half plagued with careless passing, errant shooting and weak defensive rebounding, scoring 50 points in the second half to storm past upset-minded and battle-tested Ohio State. In so doing, the Blue Devils notched their third win this month over a top-five opponent—three teams that reached last year’s Final Four, no less—and their fourth win over a Top 25 team. In all, Duke now owns five wins over top-20 teams as measured by Ken Pomeroy’s tempo-free ratings system.

What more can the nation’s quasi No. 1 team possibly prove in a span of three weeks?

These Blue Devils have won every which way. They’ve won a seesaw game that came down to the wire (Louisville), secured a win by front-running (Minnesota) and by pulling away late (VCU). With the Commissioner’s Cup hanging in the balance, Duke even figured out how to win by playing from behind against a stalwart defensive team. That’s college basketball’s paradigm for survival of the fittest.

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