Game at Duke to test OSU’s maturity
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.”