Florida State (12-10, 6-6 ACC) upset Duke (15-8, 6-7 ACC) 59-56 tonight in Durham, NC.
Florida State started the game hot jumping out to a 7-2 lead after a Valencia Myers layup. From there both teams had trouble generating consistent offense. Duke managed to score the last four points of the quarter to cut the Seminoles lead to 13-8 going into the second quarter.
The two teams traded baskets to start the second quarter. However, midway through the quarter the Blue Devils hit FSU with a quick 6-0 run to take a 23-22 lead. The Noles answered with a couple of layups from Sara Bejedi and Makayla Timpson but Shayeann Day-Wilson scored the last four points of the quarter for Duke to give them a 27-26 lead going into halftime.
The score stayed tight in the third quarter. Both teams went back and forth. Neither team was able to stretch a lead out further than three points in the quarter. Duke managed to take a 39-37 lead into the fourth quarter.
In the fourth quarter the Noles made a move early. FSU started out the quarter on a 9-2 run that was sparked by a triple from Sammie Puisis. Florida State had a 46-41 lead after the run. Later in the quarter the Noles went on another run sparked by four straight points from Morgan Jones. After the 7-1 run FSU had a 55-45 lead with almost four minutes left in the game. However, the Blue Devils wouldn’t fold. Onome Akinbode-James hit a layup to spark Duke to an 11-2 run that was greatly assisted by a pair of threes from Miela Goodchild. FSU was now clinging to a 57-56 lead. From there both teams had empty possessions. With 10 seconds left Duke fouled River Baldwin to stop the clock. Baldwin split a pair of free throws and Duke had life only being down two at 58-56. Duke called timeout to advance the ball. Day-Wilson received the ball in the corner with four seconds left in the game. She hit a triple but the referees ruled (correctly) that she stepped out of bounds before getting off the shot. Erin Howard was fouled and she made one of two. Duke again advanced the ball but they couldn’t get a shot off and Florida State walked away with a crucial 59-56 victory.
Morgan Jones led a balanced Nole attack with 13 points and six boards.
The front court was the story for FSU tonight. Valencia Myers, Erin Howard, Makayla Timpson and River Baldwin all stepped up and played really well as a collective unit. FSU dominated Duke in the paint 38-24 and the frontcourt was the major reason for that advantage.
FSU really looked like the superior team for most of the night but the big Achilles heel for the Seminoles tonight were the live ball turnovers. Duke had 14 fast break points to only five for FSU and that kept the Devils in the game.
The good news for FSU is that they won a Q1 road game when they didn’t do anything particularly special. For instance, they didn’t shoot an unreal percentage from three (they were actually 3-10 3PT) or have someone go for a career high. FSU just played good basketball for most of the night and that was enough to get the victory. That is good news because a performance like tonight is repeatable. Unlike if they went 8 for 14 from deep. Florida State proved tonight that if they just play their game that is good enough to get big wins.
Florida State is demonstrating how good this team can be when healthy. Unfortunately, the Noles dug a hole for themselves before this stretch of good health. They still have an uphill climb to get into the tournament but with these last two big wins FSU is taking the necessary steps to get there. We will see if they can continue this late season charge.
Florida State will travel to Coral Gable to meet Miami (12-10, 5-7 ACC) on Sunday. The Canes fell tonight to Notre Dame 69-53. The game will tip at noon and will be broadcast on the ACC Network.