(20) Duke Blue Devils (21-7, 10-5 ACC) defeated the (9) Florida State Seminoles (22-5, 10-4 ACC) 79-66 tonight in Durham, NC.
Duke was the dominant program in the ACC before Notre Dame’s entry into the league. The Blue Devils won three ACC titles from 2010-2013. However, in 2016 the program hit the rocks. The program went 20-12 and missed the NCAAs for the first time since 1994. Even worse, two starters left the program when former ACC Player of the Year Azura Stevens left for UConn and mega recruit Angela Salvadores (#5 overall in 2015) went back to Spain after only a year in Durham.
To add insult to injury Duke launched an investigation into the program and specifically coach Joanne P. McCallie in response to player complaints about mistreatment. McCallie survived the investigation and was later awarded a contract extension. Last year the Blue Devils rebounded to finish 28-6 and make the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
This year the Blue Devils have seven losses but only one of them can be considered a bad loss - 92-86 to (107 RPI) North Carolina. All of the other losses are to top 50 RPI teams. Duke is a very good three point shooting team (39.8%) and they play particularly well at home with their only home loss coming to Notre Dame. They like to play at a slow tempo (#277 nationally in pace) and they utilize a matchup 3-2 zone defensively.
Lexie Brown is Duke’s best player. Brown (daughter of NBA slam dunk champion Dee) is a 5’9 senior transfer from Maryland. She leads the ACC in scoring at 20.2 a game as well as leading the team in assists (4.18). Brown is very good from behind the arc (.396) but she is quick enough to get to the rim and skilled enough to pull up for the mid-range jumper. She is also an excellent defender ranking 5th nationally in steals. On top of all that she shoots 82.6% from the line. In short, she is the best point guard in the ACC.
Rebecca Greenwell is a 6’1 senior (13.5pg, 6.5 rg). The 6’1 wing was an all-ACC first teamer last year. She is deadly from behind the arc (.432) as well as being a quality rebounder. She also shoots 80% from the line.
The game got off to an ominous start for Florida State as star wing Shakayla Thomas was held out of the starting lineup. Thomas got to the game only 30 minutes before tip-off due to having to remain in Tallahassee to appear in court for a traffic citation. Because Thomas got to the game so late she missed shoot-around. Sophomore guard Nausia Woolfolk got the start in place of Thomas.
Despite all of that the Seminoles got off to a good start. The Noles led 13-7 midway through the first quarter after a three from Nicole Ekhomu who turned 20 today. Duke promptly went on an 11-1 run to take an 18-14 lead. From there the two teams mostly traded baskets and Duke ended the quarter with a 22-18 lead.
The teams traded baskets in the second quarter until Duke hit FSU with a 9-0 run to take a 33-25 lead with about three minutes left in the half. FSU battled back to score seven of the last nine points of the half and entered the locker room down 35-32.
In the third the two teams traded baskets for most of the quarter until Jade Williams scored a layup as time expired to give Duke a 57-51 lead going into the final stanza.
Duke scored the first five points of the fourth quarter to go up 62-51. FSU responded with a 7-0 run that was capped by Imani Wright who was fouled shooting a triple and hit all three foul shots to cut Duke’s lead to four. The Blue Devils responded with an 8-2 run to go back up 70-60 with a little over three minutes left in the game. From there the Noles were never able to mount a serious run and they fell 79-66.
FSU was led by birthday girl Nicole Ekhomu’s 15 points and nine rebounds. AJ Alix (13 pts) and Imani Wright (11 pts) were FSU’s other leading scorers.
This game was lost due to several factors:
- Too many turnovers (11) in the first half.
- Duke hammered FSU on the boards especially in the second half. The Noles lost the rebounding battle 48-37.
- Brown (30pts, 5stls) and Greenwell (22pts, 9reb) were brilliant for Duke.
Thomas was only 2-10 shooting (7pts) and she seemed off all game. It is impossible to know how much missing the shoot-around and having her routine interrupted affected her but it certainly didn’t help.
It’s never fun to lose but this game doesn’t really hurt FSU’s post season position that much. In women’s basketball it really doesn’t matter much whether a team gets a 2 or 3 seed in the NCAAs so this loss doesn’t really hurt there because the Noles are going to get a top 3 seed barring a complete collapse down the stretch. The loss drops FSU into a third place tie in the ACC with NC State but the Noles will be heavy favorites in their final two games (Boston College and Georgia Tech) both at home while the Pack has to go to South Bend for their last ACC game. If the Wolfpack takes a loss there (likely) the Noles will have sole possession of third place if they take care of business.
The last reveal was made by the NCAA Tournament Committee tonight at halftime of the game. Florida State was ranked ninth. There is a lot of basketball to be played but as long as FSU is one of the top 3 seeds matchups will matter much more than whether the seed is #2 or #3.
The Noles return home to face Boston College (7-20, 2-12 ACC) on Thursday at 7pm. The game will be carried on the ACC Network Extra. Sagarin has FSU as a 32.5 point favorite.