The No. 15 Duke Blue Devils topped FSU by just that many on Thursday night, cruising to an 80-65 victory in Durham, NC. And while it was a rather easy win for Duke down the stretch, nothing came easy in the early going. The Devils gave the 'Noles a great shot at getting out to an early lead in Cameron Indoor Arena, missing their first nine shots of the contest.
However, while the Devils were missing shots, Florida State missed out on chances to even get a shot up, turning the ball over from the opening tip. Three of the Seminoles' first four turns came from point guard Xavier Rathan-Mayes, who led FSU with 13 points on the night-- but also did so with five turnovers, and a 1-5 turnover-to-assist ratio from your point guard isn't going to win you many road games in the ACC, especially when that same player is going just 4-7 from the line.
With regard to scoring, the 'Noles got a nice start from Malik Beasley, who looked to be well on his way into double figures after registering nine in the first half. But Beasley remained right there at nine points, on 4-13 shooting, and has now registered fewer then 10 points in three of his last four games. Beasley and fellow Florida State frosh Dwayne Bacon entered the game leading the nation in freshman-duo scoring, at 31.9 PPG. They combined for just 21 at Duke.
Free throws were once more an issue for the 'Noles, as, yet again, their opponent made more than FSU even attempted (Florida State made a disappointing 6-11, while Duke sunk 15-20). The Devils were called for two-thirds as many fouls as the Seminoles (14-21), which can often be a sign of one team playing more aggressively than another and taking the ball to the basket while the other settles for outside shots.
Yet despite allowing Duke to take 11 more shots on the night, the Blue Devils fostered 12 more three-point attempts, so FSU actually tried more two-point FGs (40-39). And FSU outshot Duke from the floor (50%-43%) and from distance (36%-35%). But when you're outscored by 14 from the line, winning is going to prove tough. Missing them is one thing, but seeing the opposition get nearly twice as many chances is quite another. The most notable missed call came seconds before the final buzzer, when Duke's Grayson Allen intentionally tripped XRM.
But the refs weren't the real problem-- it was the Florida State defense. Despite what was usually a strong effort that saw the 'Noles competing to the final possession when the Blue Devils were trying to run out the clock, FSU time and again saw itself poorly positioned, which facilitated myriad open looks for DU. Miscommunication, leaving shooters at the arc, and, at times, not fighting through screens with the vigor needed, the Seminoles were defensively discombobulated from the jump. I'd say they rotated poorly, but on several occasions, there was no rotation to be found.
But again, most of the time, they tried. Now, however, .500 in the ACC is no longer possible, as FSU sits at 6-10 with two games left before the conference tournament. We'll see if they continue to try at a point when most have written off the season barring a miraculous run in the ACC tourney.