Game at Duke to test OSU’s ma­tu­rity

The Columbus Dispatch - - Nhl - By Josh Horton jhor­ton@dis­patch.com @josh­hor­ton22

It will be a home­com­ing of sorts for two Ohio State play­ers on Thurs­day night when the Buck­eyes travel to Durham, North Carolina, to play Duke in the ACCBig Ten Chal­lenge.

Sierra Cal­houn and Stephanie Mavunga trans­ferred to Ohio State from schools on To­bacco Road. Cal­houn played at Duke for one sea­son, 2014-15, and Mavunga played at North Carolina for two sea­sons, 2013-14 and 2014-15.

Both play­ers are ex­cited to re­turn to the state where they kicked off their col­lege ca­reers, and to play in front of and against old friends.

“I re­ally like play­ing in Cameron In­door; it’s a re­ally nice sta­dium,” Mavunga said. “I have a lot of peo­ple com­ing to sup­port me, so that will be fun (as well as) see­ing some old friends and things of that na­ture.”

“I still don’t mess with Duke,” Mavunga added with a chuckle.

The game will be a sig­nif­i­cant test for the Buck­eyes for rea­sons other than rekin­dling

ri­val­ries and friend­ships. It’s Ohio State’s first road game other than at a neu­tral site, and a win against 14th-ranked Duke (5-1) would aug­ment the No. 8 Buck­eyes’ strong re­sume, which fea­tures two wins over Stan­ford in a 7-1 start.

Coach Kevin McGuff fac­tors long-term prepa­ra­tion into his non­con­fer­ence sched­ul­ing.

“I like to chal­lenge us early on. I like to find out where we have to get bet­ter, and you can’t do that un­less you’re play­ing high-level teams,” McGuff said. “I also think it’s ben­e­fi­cial to play a dif­fer­ent style of teams. We just played Stan­ford, and they’re all man-to-man. Duke plays a lot of zone. To have to play these dif­fer­ent styles early on forces you to ad­just and make sure you can play against ev­ery­body.

“We’re play­ing a team on the road that’s go­ing to be a tour­na­ment team and has a chance to make a deep run in the tour­na­ment. This is the type of sit­u­a­tion we want to be in in March, and so we want to see where we’re at right now.”

One com­mon theme for McGuff, aside from stress­ing the im­por­tance of de­fense and re­bound­ing, is the ma­tu­rity of the Buck­eyes, which was ev­i­dent as they ral­lied from 12 points down to top­ple the Car­di­nal 94-82 in over­time in the cham­pi­onship game of the Play4Kay Show­case on Satur­day.

That might come in handy while play­ing in Cameron In­door Sta­dium, one of the most hos­tile en­vi­ron­ments in the sport.

“Coach McGuff kept telling us that a year ago we wouldn’t have won that Stan­ford game,” Mavunga said. “We were re­ally com­posed and played with a lot of en­ergy, and it was a lot of ma­tu­rity that showed in that game.”

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