Winners of three of their last four, Florida State came into a road match against the Duke Blue Devils with a little bit of momentum. But Duke, coming off a road loss to Wake Forest, got a five-star freshman back from injury and simply overwhelmed FSU with size, depth, and offensive rebounding. The Seminoles didn’t look intimidated, but they did look overmatched, ultimately falling 86-67 in Cameron Indoor Stadium. The loss drops FSU to 4-11 and 2-2 in ACC play.
Having been off since December 20th, Duke came out cold, missing multiple open jumpers. This allowed FSU to get on the board first with a great feed by Cameron Corhen to a back-cutting Matthew Cleveland. Duke grabbed a 5-2 lead after finally hitting a perimeter shot, but Darin Green, Jr. came back with a step-back long-two off a good look in transition from Jalen Warley. Green, Jr. then followed it up with a bomb from way downtown that hit nothing but nylon, and the Seminoles led 7-5 at the first media timeout.
For the next few minutes the ‘Noles had several chances to extend their lead, but open shots were missed near and far. On the other end, big man Ryan Young subbed in for the Blue Devils and immediately made a difference on the offensive glass. This led to multiple second chance opportunities for the home squad and a 6-0 run to take an 11-7 lead.
Caleb Mills broke the drought for FSU by getting to the rack in the half-court and transition, tying the game at 11 with a blink-of-an-eye personal 4-0 run.
From there, the Blue Devils started exerting their will on the game. There weren’t any real wow plays in this stretch, but slowly but surely Duke built their lead. Continuing a season-long problem, much of their scoring came after offensive rebounds. By the time sophomore Jaylen Blakes hit his third three of the first half—following an offensive board from Mark Mitchell—Duke’s margin swelled to 11 at 24-13. This, despite the Devils starting just 4-12 from three and 9-22 from the field.
Green, Jr. and Mills, both of whom came out hot in this game, gave FSU a little life with consecutive buckets to cut the lead to 24-18, but Duke stopped the mini-run at 5 and pushed it back out to 29-18 by the final media timeout. The final four minutes belonged to Duke. Clearly the deeper and more physical team, the Blue Devils revved up the pace and the crowd. The Seminoles coaching staff attempted to give its starters some rest, but the bench was largely ineffective aside from a good looking corner three-ball from Chandler Jackson, who continues to look more comfortable with each passing week.
When the first-half horn finally sounded, the Devils trotted into the locker room with a 42-25 lead, capped off by a 7-0 run over the final 1:41. Young, a 6’10 235 pound senior, proved to be unstoppable for the smaller Seminoles, finishing the half with 12 points on a perfect 5-5 from the field and 2-2 from the stripe. As if tying his season scoring high in just 11 minutes of action wasn’t dominating enough, elder statesman added 6 rebounds (3 offensive) and a beautiful assist out of a double team. With Corhen in Hamilton’s two-foul jail, FSU simply had no match for him. Naheem McLeod was caught out of position time and time again, while guys like Cleveland and Green, Jr. were just bullied by the big man.
For the half, Duke had 28 points off the bench, while Florida State played three starters 18+ minutes and got just 3 points from its bench. In fact, Mills and Green, Jr. scored 9 apiece while the rest of Florida State roster scored just 7 points total—Cleveland with 4 and Jackson’s late-half three.
The opening four minutes of the second half were similar to the opening minutes of the game. Duke missed a few shots and coughed it up a couple times, while FSU, looking rested out of halftime, came out aggressively attacking the basket. The Seminoles got two pair of freebies and a pair of layups from Mills and Corhen, plus a jumper by Warley and cut the lead down to a dozen by the under-16 media timeout, 47-35.
Going into the timeout, Cleveland and five-star freshman Dariq Whitehead (who at one point looked headed to FSU) were issued double-techs and what followed was a significant tightening up of the style of play being allowed by the refs. There were more whistles than points over the next few minutes and both teams were in the bonus with more than 13 minutes to go. On the one hand, this allowed Florida State to hang around, as the ‘Noles continued to attack the hoop. On the other hand, it didn’t really allow much ground to be made up, as Duke was getting to the line too.
Another deep three from Green, Jr. cut the lead to 11, at 60-49, forcing first year coach Jon Scheyer to call a timeout with 10:03 left. That margin was the closet FSU had been since Jackson’s three made it 35-25 with 2:07 remaining in the first half. There were chances to cut the lead even further, as FSU forced Duke into several misses. But once again, poor defensive rebounding gave the Devils second chance opportunities and they took advantage.
Eventually, as with the first half, the Seminoles simply ran out of gas. With a limited bench, Cleveland, Mills, and Green, Jr. played virtually the entire game. Tired legs led to missed shots and sloppy passes, which led to easy buckets for Duke, which led to blowout city.
For the game, FSU shot just 4-15 from three and only 21-49 from the field. Mills, Green, Jr., and Cleveland had 18, 16, and 18 points, respectively, but all of them needed 10+ shots to do it. No other player finished with more than 5 points, although Warley played a solid all-around game with 3 assists, 4 rebounds, a block, and a steal.
Young led Duke with a 20 point, 12 rebound double-double. He finished the game as he started it, without missing a shot, going 7-7 from the field and 6-6 from the stripe.
Despite the lopsided loss, there were some positive developments to note. Matthew Cleveland registered yet another double-double, his 4th in a row and 5th in 6 games, finishing with 18 points and 12 rebounds. More than that, he even showed some signs of developing as a playmaker, dishing out 3 assists.
Speaking of signs of development, Jackson and Corhen both held their own against the uber-talented Blue Devils. Jackson tied his career high with 5 points, while adding a steal and an assist. The next thing for the youngster would be to start using his nose for the ball to start grabbing a few rebounds so he can push the break.
Corhen, meanwhile, was the only semi-answer FSU had for Duke underneath. In 22 minutes of play, Corhen had a 0 +/-. Compare that to -15 for McLeod in 12 minutes of action. It’s too bad Corhen sat for so much of the first half, as that was when Duke really opened up their lead.
The Seminoles get another week off before returning to action in the Tucker Center against Georgia Tech on Saturday, January 7th. The Yellow Jackets, who face the Miami Hurricanes on Wednesday, currently sit just 7-6 on the season and 0-3 in ACC play. So with an effort similar to the Notre Dame game, FSU would seem to have a solid chance at a “W.”
But perhaps the bigger story is that the game against GT will be Florida State’s 16th game of the season, meaning it’s the final game freshman Baba Miller is forced to sit by the NCAA police.