Ohio State's Win Over No. 1 Duke A Memorable Night for Buckeye Players, Fans

By Garrick Hodge on December 1, 2021 at 10:39 am
Zed Key

Zed Key remembered the moment well.

It was precisely eight seconds after E.J. Liddell nailed the biggest shot of Ohio State’s 71-66 upset win over No. 1 Duke Tuesday: a stepback fadeaway mid-range shot that put the Buckeyes up three with 15 seconds remaining. 

On the ensuing possession, Duke turned to its freshman phenom, Paolo Banchero. Banchero, a projected 2022 NBA draft lottery pick, fired a 3-point shot that clanked off the rim. The rebound was secured by Louisiana transfer Cedric Russell, the unlikeliest of heroes Tuesday night when he finished with 12 points in 15 minutes, both season-highs. Russell was immediately fouled. 

At that moment, Key lost it, waving his hands in the air to get the 18,809 fans in attendance at the Schottenstein Center fired up as Russell made the slow trek to the free throw line. Key knew it was over.  

“I forgot we were even playing the game anymore,” Key said with a wry chuckle after the win. “I was just so excited. I was already celebrating.”  

Why shouldn’t Key live it up when he contributed a career-high 20 points on the night on the biggest stage of the year? Despite Ohio State missing 11 free throws before Russell’s final trip to the free throw line, the 6-foot-2 guard sunk both attempts with ease, cementing a five-point win. 

The moment after the final buzzer sounded, a court storm followed. Ushers, bless their hearts, tried to limit a bunch of crazed college students from making their way to center court the best they could, to no avail. In less than 60 seconds, OSU students and fans had flooded the center of The Schottenstein Center. With a rare mix of chaos and serenity blended together all the same, OSU players soaked up the moment of bringing the biggest win of the season to their peers. 

If you think about it, the students in attendance deserved the win almost as much as the players, with some camping out at the Schottenstein Center more than 24 hours in advance to secure their seats.

At least OSU coach Chris Holtmann bought them doughnuts and pizza for their dedication.

He’d be damned if he was going to tell them to simmer down after a win like this.

“I hope the students enjoy this well into the morning,” Holtmann said in front of a media contingent he openly said was larger than usual after the game, quickly adding a stipulation that he hoped they did so safely.  

You could tell the fifth-year Ohio State head coach was appreciative of a packed house just from his smile in his postgame press conference. 

"Our crowd was phenomenal. Make sure everybody prints that," Holtmann said with a laugh. "We needed all of ya tonight, and we need ya back."    

Legendary Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, now in his 42nd and final season, entered the night 7-0 with his Blue Devils ranked No. 1 in the AP poll. It looked like the Coach K farewell tour was going to claim another victim when Duke took a 13-point lead into halftime. 

ESPN’s pregame storylines centered around Coach K, and understandably so. But the night ended up becoming the Buckeyes’ story, as they became the first team in over a decade to beat Duke after trailing by double digits at halftime. Taking down No. 1 was a moment OSU basketball needed after its hearts were ripped out on a buzzer-beating loss to Florida last time out, and a victory its fan base needed after the football team’s devastating loss to Michigan on Saturday.

As two fans made their way out of The Schottenstein Center after they had their court storming fun, they took a moment to reflect on what they had just witnessed. 

“That was incredible,” one fan said to the man accompanying him. “It almost felt like that made up for Saturday.” 

“Bro, stop,” his friend replied, seemingly the more sage of the two. 

Tuesday’s win gave Ohio State the all-time lead for most wins against a No. 1-ranked opponent as an unranked team. And while Coach K has 1,177 career wins, the most of any college coach ever, none of them came at the Schottenstein Center, where he’ll finish his coaching career 0-2.

“Congratulations to Ohio State, they played really hard,” a stoic Krzyzewski said following the contest. “I thought they wore us out."


Time will tell if a win of this magnitude will be one of the key highlights of a successful 2021-22 Ohio State basketball season, or simply the answer to a trivia question 10 years from now when an MC at a sports bar asks which team gave Coach K his first loss in his final campaign.

Regardless, Ohio State basketball treated its fans to a night they won’t soon forget.

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