Duane Washington Shoulders Double Duty for Ohio State

Bruce Hooley

If an opponent forgets what Duane Washington did to secure an important role in Ohio State's lineup he is more than capable and quite agreeable to remind them of it.

Nebraska found that out Thursday night, when Washington landed three three-point field goals in the first four minutes to get the No. 23 Buckeyes off and running toward a 75-54 win. that pushed OSU (19-8, 9-8) over .500 for the first time in the Big Ten this season.,

They'll attempt to stay there Sunday in a 4 p.m. tip against Michigan (18-10, 9-8), which has won five of six and is battling the Buckeyes for seeding in the conference tournament two weeks out.

Wiping the doormat with Nebraska, a team that's lost 13 straight, might not seem like much of an accomplishment, but OSU was down to eight scholarship players because of injuries and other issues.

It played without starting forward Kyle Young (ankle) against Nebraska and he is doubtful to return against Michigan.

Likewise, freshman forward Alonzo Gaffney is still out due to illness.

Such personnel losses have required Washington, the three-point specialist, to become Washington, the combo-guard, not just hurting defenses from long range, but driving to the basket to create opportunities for others or himself.

Nebraska, though, learned that backing off him outside invites Washington to show he can still do what he did to carry OSU to early-season wins over Villanova and North Carolina, when he made four triples in both games and led his team in scoring both times.

The dual role Washington is filling with freshman D.J. Carton still out, tending to his mental health, is one he played in high school and welcomed when OSU coach Chis Holtmann asked more of him.

"I definitely feel like I've done this before, to have the ball in my hands a lot more," said Washington, OSU's second-leading scorer at 11 points per-game. "In high school, in AAU, it's not something I've never done before.

"For me, having the ball a little more puts me in a better rhythm. You feel the ball more, you're a part of the action, and so I can be a little more comfortable and get into a rhythm. I definitely like playing with the ball a little more and being a play-maker for others."

Washington had a career-high five assists in a recent win over Rutgers and his turnovers haven't increased over early in the season, when he was a sometimes-shaky ballhandler.

"I might have been pressing and trying too hard early in the season, worrying about trying to make stuff happen instead of letting the game come to me," Washington said. "The more film I started watching, the more I started to realize, 'You gotta let it come to you.' Once I made that decision, talked to the coaches and talked to my teammates and just kind of let it come to me, I felt a lot more comfortable. It felt like it was the right move."

Washington now occasionally spells point guard C.J. Walker or takes the point so Jackson can slide to a wing to give defenses a different look.

"Like Duane said, he was just moving too fast," Walker said of Washington's occasional turnover issues early. "He didn't play point guard his whole freshman year, then being able to play the One all the sudden, that's not something you get into super fast and be able to control the team. I feel like he's calmed down a lot and learned a lot."

Sometimes, the learning is secondary to the belief that comes with being handed such responsibility.

"They trusted me," Washington said. "Gaining that trust took awhile, but now that it's here, it's good. They have confidence in me, so I have confidence."

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