The Florida State basketball team entered Cameron Indoor Stadium Tuesday night with a lot stacked against it. First, the Blue Devils were playing with a chip on their shoulders after FSU won the first matchup between the two in convincing fashion back in January. Furthermore, it was Senior Night in Durham, Duke entered the game on a two-game losing streak, and the Devils were in more dire need of a win to remain in the double-bye tournament for the ACC Tournament.
All of this showed itself in Tuesday’s game as the Blue Devils took advantage of the stage to hold off the Seminoles’ late comeback bid to earn a 75-70 win.
Above the Rim
Another thing Florida State had working against it in the loss to Duke was the fact that the ’Noles had to contend with a much healthier Blue Devils team this time around, complete with starting power forward Amile Jefferson, who was out with a foot injury the first time the teams met.
Back in January, Florida State dominated the interior at both ends of the court as Duke unsuccessfully attempted to plug Jefferson’s spot with a platoon of backups. This time, Jefferson was a constant force. He finished with 14 points on a remarkable 6-6 shooting to go along with 11 boards in 31 minutes of action.
Jefferson’s presence was also felt at the defensive end. In Florida State’s early-season win over the Blue Devils, the Seminoles’ three centers (Michael Ojo, Christ Koumadje, and Jarquez Smith) combined for 17 points on 8-12 shooting. This time around, Florida State’s bigs were severely limited due to a combination of Jefferson’s presence and a complete inability to hit even the simplest of shots. The same trio of centers finished the loss with a combined two points on 1-10 shooting.
That being said, the struggles on point-blank shots extended to the entire team at points. The Seminoles failed to take advantage of easy shot opportunities early in the game when Duke was ice cold from the floor and it came back to bite them, as you would expect.
Although there are many negatives from Tuesday’s loss which must be called into question, Florida State’s hustle is not among them. The Seminoles demonstrated effort and intensity at the defensive end through the loss, often finding themselves on the wrong side of a break after a well-played possession. This hustle was most evident in the closing minutes of the game where the ’Noles fought to cut what was once a secure Duke lead into single digits on multiple occasions.
Leading that charge down the final stretch of the game was Dwayne Bacon. The sophomore guard was largely missing in action for the opening 33 minutes of the game, putting up three points on 1-3 from the floor. Over the final 6:45 of the second half, Bacon put up 16 of FSU’s final 19 points on 5-6 shooting to reduce Duke’s lead, which was as big as 19, down to five in the closing seconds.
It has been apparent throughout this season that Florida State’s success has hinged on success by Bacon, the team’s leading scorer. For the Seminoles to have any chance at long-term success come NCAA Tournament time, it will likely be thanks in large part to Bacon playing near the peak of his ability.
Waiting at the Scorer’s Table
With the loss, Florida State drops to 3-6 in road games this season. Luckily for the Seminoles, this also marks the final true road game they will face this year. Up next is a home stint with the Miami Hurricanes on Saturday (4 PM) followed by a closing stretch of neutral-site games at the ACC and NCAA Tournaments.