On senior night in Tallahassee with the crowd looking to explode and a number of things not going according to plan on both ends of the floor, Duke managed to come away with a key victory thanks to the steady play of their senior leader. Last season Duke would have lost this game without a doubt. However this season with improved balance and chemistry the Devils were able to pull it out.
With the tandem of J.J. Redick and Daniel Ewing going stone cold from the perimeter, the Blue Devils began looking inside and attacking the basket off the dribble on the offensive end. At times the old habits of pulling up early from the perimeter reappeared, but whenever Duke needed a big basket, they went inside. This resulted in a number of good looks and key conversions throughout the second half when the Seminoles seemed to hit every big shot they would throw up.
As a team the Blue Devils suffered through a poor shooting night all around, hitting just 20-of-51 from the field including a paltry 6-of-25 from three point range.
Duke also got a lift from the starting frontcourt as Shelden Williams and Luol Deng both played well and caused a number of problems for the Seminoles before foul trouble ended Williams' night early. On the night Williams finished with 14 points and nine rebounds while Deng was the Duke offense during much of the first half, finishing with 20 points and nine rebounds.
Defensive Duke managed to make the needed adjustments to cool off Florida State's Tim Pickett, who had gotten free to score eight quick points in the first half. The team managed to force 19 Florida State turnovers while holding the Seminoles to 43% shooting on the night.
Though the rebounding margin ended up even, the Blue Devils did manage to come up with the big boards when it counted – most notably when Nick Horvath corralled a rebound with just over a minute remaining to give Duke possession and a fresh shot clock.
A final note on Duke's new found toughness: It was good to see the team rise to the occasion and knock down their free throws down the stretch, making the final 12 attempts to put the game away.
What Went Wrong:
The shooting touch that was displayed against Valparaiso on Thursday night must have been left in Cameron with the white uniforms. The Blue Devils simply couldn't knock down the looks from the perimeter, which allowed Florida State numerous chances to get back to within striking distance, as the perimeter shooters became determined to hit a shot from the outside.
Duke also struggled with reach in fouls tonight. After just eight minutes, Florida State was already in the bonus situation during the first half. While the Blue Devils did manage to adapt late in the game, being able to stay away from those situations early on could have meant more playing time for the team's best defensive option in the post.
At times the ball movement was superb tonight, though other times Duke could have looked to make the extra pass instead of taking some tough shots, which turned into fast break points for the ‘Noles. The assist to turnover ratio for the team was 1:1.75.
Player of the Game:
For carrying Duke throughout much of the first half, and seeming to come up big more often than not, freshman Luol Deng is our TDD player of the game by a hair over Chris Duhon.
The Blue Devils will be looking to defend the nation's longest home court winning streak twice next week when they host both Georgia Tech and North Carolina in Cameron. A win in either game will solidify the ACC Tournament's top seed, and likely wraps up a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, though that's debatable at this point. Both Tech and Carolina have proven capable of beating anyone at anytime this season, though both have been better on their home courts.
Duke will need to rediscover the shooting touch it had against Valpo while concentrating on swarming defensive pressure against both the Heels and Yellow Jackets as both teams will be looking to improve their NCAA seeding with wins over Duke. If that's not enough motivation for them, both teams will be looking for revenge after the Devils earned victories in Atlanta and Chapel Hill earlier this season.