Sophomore center Herb Williams scored 20 of his 23 pints in the second half and Ohio State overcame a 17-point lead during the final 13 minute of regulation and went on to stun top-ranked Duke, 90-84 in overtime in the first game of the ECAC Holiday Festival.
The surprising Buckeyes earned a berth in Saturday night's championship game against Rutgers, which defeated St. John's, 72-61, in tonight's second game behind James Bailey's 26 points and nine rebounds.
Duck (6-1) appeared to be in command after a Jim Spanarkel threepoint play with 13:36 left brought a 55-38 lead. Then Williams and Kelvin Ransey, who led the Buckeyes (5-3) with 26 points, took over.
At 18-foot jump shot by Ransey with 32 seconds left earned the Buckeyes their first tie at 76-76. Mike Gminski of Duke missed a short hook shot -- hitting nothing at all -- with five seconds left, and Ransey missed for Ohio State, forcing overtime.
In the overtime, with the score at 80-80, the Buckeyes took command on a dunk by Jim Smith with 1:49 left. Duke did not score again until OSU led, 88-80, with six seconds left.
"We have no excuses," Duke Coach Bill Foster said. "Give Ohio State credit. Their offensive efficiency in the second half was amazing. They scored 51 points. That doesn't say much for our defense, does it."
But Ransey thought it was the Duke offense, not its defense, that led to the Blue Devils' downfall.
"The second half, their offense changed," he said. "They weren't cutting to the hoop the way they had been; they weren't moving like they had before. We just kept nippin' at their heels."
Duke appeared capable of humiliating the Buckeyes in the first half. With Gminski and Spanarkel leading the way, the Blue Devils treated the crowd of 18,589 to a smooth show of offensive cohesion while building a 39-25 lead at the half.
"We were just playing our game," Spanarkel said. "I don't know what happened at the end. Give them credit, okay? I don't know if we lost our poise. I'd rather not answer that question right now."
Ohio State had a lot to do with Duke's apparent loss of poise. The Buckeyes made 24 of 37 shots in the second half, led by Williams' nine-of-11 spree after going zero for six in the first half.
Spanarkel led Duke with 30 points and Gminski added 27 Sophomore sensation Eugene Banks, who said a pulled calf muscle hampered him, made just six of 17 shots for 12 points and was benched by Foster during part of the overtime.