No. 14 Florida State (20-5, 9-5 ACC) was defeated by Duke (15-10, 9-5 ACC) today by a 66-64 score in Durham, NC.
Duke lept out to a quick 7-2 lead but FSU responded with four straight to pull within one. The teams traded buckets from there. The quarter ended with Nausia Woolfolk and Kyra Lambert trading threes. Duke had a 17-15 lead going into the second quarter.
Florida State managed to get a 22-19 lead early in the second quarter but it was quickly erased by three free throws from Haley Gorecki. Those free throws sparked Duke to a 13-2 run. Nicki Ekhomu broke the run with a layup but the Noles were still down 32-26. The half ended with the Blue Devils up 34-28.
Duke extended their lead with a 6-0 mini-run midway through the third quarter. Ekhomu responded with a triple but the Seminoles were still down 41-35. River Baldwin came alive scoring FSU’s next six points but the Blue Devils were able to keep pace and the Noles still trailed by four. From there the teams traded baskets until Nausia Woolfolk hit a three to end the period but Florida State still trailed 49-46.
Duke scored the first five points of the fourth to take a 54-46 lead with about eight minutes left in the game. However, FSU wasn’t done. With 4:44 left Sammie Puisis drained a three sparking the Noles to an 11-0 run to take a 60-58 lead. After a Duke timeout the Blue Devils responded with four quick points from Leaonna Odom. Ekhomu drew a foul and nailed both freebies to tie the game at 62 with 1:22 left. Both teams committed turnovers and Kyra Lambert stole the ball for Duke. With 13 seconds left Gorecki drove to the basket and scored a layup to put Duke up 64-62. Ekhomu responded with an acrobatic layup to tie the game at 64. With three seconds left Gorecki again drove to the basket and this time she got the call sending her to the line. Gorecki hit both free throws and FSU called a timeout to advance the ball. With 3.2 seconds left FSU inbounded the ball but Gorecki was called for a foul. Duke had a foul to give so the Noles inbounded again. This time the ball went to Ekhomu and she shot a highly contested three which she missed and the Noles lost 66-64.
Nicki Ekhomu led FSU with 19 points and eight assists. Nausia Woolfolk had 14 points and 11 boards while River Baldwin chipped in with 10 points.
This game was important because with a win the Noles would have placed themselves in a good place to get a four seed and therefore earn home games in the NCAA Tournament. Now FSU is likely on the five line. In order to get back on the four line the Noles will have to win out in the regular season and get to at least the semi-finals of the ACC Tournament. Even then FSU may need help. If the Seminoles want to feel really good about a top 4 seed they need to win out in the regular season and get to the ACC Tournament final.
With the loss FSU falls to a three-way tie for third in the ACC with Duke and Virginia Tech. Duke currently holds the tie-breaker over the Noles because they have now beaten FSU head to head. FSU holds the tie-breaker over Tech because the Noles beat them earlier in the year. Therefore FSU would be fourth if the season ended today. However, FSU has the easiest remaining schedule of these three teams with the hardest remaining game for FSU being a trip to Atlanta to face Georgia Tech. Duke finishes the season with three straight roadies against (4) NC State, Virginia Tech and North Carolina. Virginia Tech has that Duke game plus they finish the season at (9) Louisville. Therefore, FSU is well positioned to earn a top 4 finish and the double-bye in the ACC Tournament.
Florida State struggled shooting the ball today especially early. Duke plays a matchup zone that tries to seduce the opponent into taking a lot of jumpers. FSU fell for that settling for too many jumpers instead of driving the ball to the basket. The Noles kept it close early by dominating the boards.
Florida State shot better in the second half but Duke did a better job rebounding so the Blue Devils were able to maintain a lead for most of the second half.
Duke also was successful at keeping FSU from getting fast break points. Duke had a 10-2 lead in fast break points. The Blue Devils made FSU earn all of their points in the half court against Duke’s set defense. The Noles got nothing easy and that was a big factor in the loss.
I don’t normally discuss officiating but Haley Gorecki took 16 free throws today making 14 of them. From the field Gorecki was 3-14, 1-6 3PT. Florida State took only nine free throws as a team. I’ll just leave that there and let you draw your own conclusions.
Florida State will welcome Wake Forest (13-13, 6-9 ACC) to Tallahassee on Thursday. The game will tip at 7pm and will be broadcast on ACC Network Extra. The Deacons lost today to Virginia Tech 73-62.