The ‘Noles were struggling. Duke had ripped off a 13-7 run to open the 2nd half, taking a 2-point lead. Then, Phil Cofer turned the ball over in the post. And while Luke Kennard was making a remarkable pirouette outlet pass to a streaking Jayson Tatum, we didn’t realize it at the time, but Florida State was about to take control of the game. That change - as is so common in college basketball - began with a bad call.
Kennard’s outlet was fantastic. As he spun in the air, I’m not even sure he could see Tatum, but he whipped a fastball up the sideline, which intersected perfectly with Tatum’s path, as he crossed mid-court. Tatum caught it, with Dwayne Bacon in his right pocket, and as he made his move toward the rim for an unopposed dunk, a whistle sounded. I assumed it was a bad call against Bacon, but, instead, the ref signaled travel.
It wasn’t a travel, but, whatever, there were plenty of bad calls to go around. There always are.
Regardless, here’s what happened next:
Duke 50, FSU 48
FSU now has a sideline inbound play, and goes into a horns set, with CJ Walker at point. Everything flows weak-side, but this is only to distract Duke, while the ‘Noles are really clearing out for Dwayne Bacon on the right. Matt Jones is guarding Bacon, which is an exploitable matchup. Bacon catches and goes left, before spinning back to the right. Now, Jones is on his hip and helpless to stop a drive to the rim. However, Chase Jeter jumps out nicely to cut off the drive. Bacon checks a box for the 30 NBA scouts in the building by fading to the right from Jones and away from Jeter, before kissing a 15’ jumper from beyond the right block off the top of the glass and in. That’s an NBA-level move; if you’re Duke, you tip your cap and move on.
Duke 50, FSU 50
After Florida State tips the ball out of bounds, Duke has a BLOB play. FSU loses track of Harry Giles and only a bad pass from Grayson Allen helps here, as Giles tries for the tough highlight dunk, instead of just laying it in, and slams it off the middle of the backboard. The ball kicks out to Luke Kennard, who misses a three. Jarquez Smith carves space, allowing Braian Angola-Rodas to clear the rebound.
Angola-Rodas pushes the ball and gets it to Phil Cofer on the block in just four seconds. Duke elects not to double, so Cofer patiently backs down Jayson Tatum and hits a left-handed jump-hook.
FSU 52, Duke 50
Duke tries to go backdoor with Tatum, but Cofer has it covered. Giles tries the pass anyway, but throws it into the seats.
On the other end, Angola-Rodas recovers the ball after a deflected pass and scramble, and immediately blows by Kennard. Giles steps out to cut him off, so BAR makes a nice scoop pass to Jarquez, who throws it down with authority. The crowd is waking up.
FSU 54, Duke 50
Matt Jones gets past Bacon on the perimeter and drives straight down Broadway, where Jarquez Smith is waiting. Instead of kicking to Giles, who is now open after Jarquez helped Bake, Jones tries to barrel straight into Smith. Jarquez does a great job of maintaining his space, forcing a Jones brick after the contact. With Jones sprawled into the cheerleaders, the Duke bench goes nuts at the no-call. TV Teddy Valentine, the baseline official, just looks at their bench and slowly raises both of his hands straight into the air, signaling that Jarquez maintained verticality. The Tuck is really making noise now. Meanwhile, CJ Walker and FSU are racing the other way. Earlier in the game, CJ misread a fast break and passed thinking Bacon was cutting corner, when he really wanted a leading pass to the rim, causing a turnover. This time, CJ goes much deeper, Bacon hits the left corner, and CJ drops the pass right into the shooting pocket. If this goes down the crowd might lose it. But Bacon’s shot hits back rim and now Duke is running.
Apparently Jarquez was injured on the Jones layup attempt, because he’s still under Duke’s rim. The Blue Devils hit Jones on the left wing and instead of closing out, it’s more of a hobble-out from Smith, but its effective, as Jones has no shot. He drives and kicks to the right wing where Tatum dribbles once and tries to hit Giles on the alley-oop. But Jarquez hobbles back to the middle and deflects the pass straight to Bacon.
Bake beats everyone down the floor except Jones, but it’s still an easy two.
FSU 56, Duke 50
Grayson Allen picks up a head of steam, goes middle, and attempts to hit Kennard on the wing, but instead passes it to some walk-on at the end of Duke’s bench [ESPN goes with closeup of Jeff Capel, sweaty and bloodshot].
FSU evenly spaces a 4-out-1-in set and feeds Ojo in the post. He passes to CJ on the left wing and then races out to screen left for him. Earlier in the day, FSU spent a considerable amount of time during shoot-around working on middle drives and where to expect the help defense. Now, Allen gets hung up on the screen, and Walker drives to the right block. However, as the help defense steps to stop him, he lobs an alley-oop to Ojo. The pass is just a hair low, so Ojo grabs it, wisely gathers himself, and then goes up for the easy layup.
FSU 58, Duke 50
Florida State has now turned a 2-point deficit into an 8-point lead in just over two minutes. And that was pretty much the game.