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Men’s Basketball: No. 25 Ohio State rides 2-game winning streak into No. 17 Duke

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The No. 25 Ohio State men’s basketball team (4-1) will travel to North Carolina for a matchup against No. 17 Duke (6-2) on Wednesday. Credit: Zachary Rilley | Photo Editor

One year to the date, the unranked Ohio State men’s basketball team upset then-No. 1 Duke at the Schottenstein Center.

This season, the No. 25 Buckeyes cracked the AP Top 25 for the first time before their next meeting with the No. 17 Blue Devils, who host Ohio State Wednesday for the first time since the 2012-13 season.

“It’ll be an incredible environment,” head coach Chris Holtmann said. “There’s no question obviously having beaten them last year, we’re going to get a great shot from them and that’s certainly what we expect.”

Duke (6-2) is coming off a 75-56 loss Saturday to then-No. 24 Purdue and fell to a top-10 Kansas team earlier this season.

Blue Devils freshman center Kyle Filipowski leads the team in rebounds as Duke is third in the country behind an average of 15.75 offensive rebounds per game. Boasting five centers who stand over 6-foot-10, Holtmann said Ohio State is taking note of Duke’s size.

“To say that’s a concern going into the game is an understatement,” Holtmann said.

Duke averages 70.75 points per game and has the No. 19-best scoring defense in the NCAA, holding opposing teams to 57 points per game.

The Blue Devils are in their first season without former head coach Mike Krzyzewski, who retired after leading Duke to a 13th Final Four last season. Freshman guard Bruce Thornton, who scored at least nine points in all three Ohio State games during the Maui Invitational, said playing inside Cameron Indoor Stadium will be a rare aura.

“It’s just a big thing,” Thornton said. “There’s just certain places in college basketball, I feel like playing at Duke is like a top-five thing, and I’m very excited to play there.”

Ohio State knocked off then-No. 21 Texas Tech Nov. 23 in the fifth-place game of the Maui Invitational. Redshirt senior forward Justice Sueing scored a career-high 33 points against the Red Raiders in his home state of Hawaii.

Graduate guard Sean McNeil, who scored 22 points against then-No. 17 San Diego State Nov. 21, said he thinks Ohio State’s new additions “already have a feel” for playing alongside one another, and the Buckeyes’ six freshmen have grown up quickly.

“These young guys don’t act like young guys,” McNeil said. “I think they’re ready for it. I think they’re fully prepared, and the older guys on the team and the coaching staff is going to get them ready to play.”

Despite having a roster that features 10 of its 14 players in their first years with the program, Ohio State has shown promise.

A road challenge at one of the most historic college basketball venues is the latest test for a Buckeye team rounding out a four-game road stretch.

“The light clicks on, the game slows down, but they still go through ups and downs and they will like any player, but I just think it happens differently for different guys,” Holtmann said. “That’s why you try to keep things as simple as possible for freshmen. But still there’s a lot for them to take in, absorb, learn, grow from.”

Ohio State tips-off against Duke in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge Wednesday at 7:15 p.m. ESPN will broadcast.

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