It had been set up as the biggest ACC game of the season, and Duke was certainly ready to prove it stills belong on top.
The Blue Devils beat the Seminoles 74-66 in a game that might have decided FSU's place in the conference standings at season's end. Florida State and Duke both entered the game with a 10-2 league record and had been tied for second in the ACC behind North Carolina. A win for the ‘Noles would've put them in terrific position to capture their first ever regular-season title.
It was simple: keep winning and continue to control your own destiny.
But Duke wouldn't let that happen.
The Seminoles could only manage to cut a double-digit Duke lead to three. On two separate occasions in the final minutes, Florida State had the opportunity to trim the lead even further but failed to execute on several possessions down the stretch. FSU's recent late-game heroics weren't on display Thursday night, and the Blue Devils took full advantage.
They did so by nailing big 3-point shots and hitting them when all the momentum appeared to be going in the opposite direction.
For the first 20 minutes, it was Andre Dawkins doing the damage from beyond the arc. The 6-4 junior connected on 5 of 7 from long range in the first half and finished 6 of 9 on 3-pointers for the game to secure a team-high 22 points.
"I got the first one to fall, and that always feels good," said Dawkins after the game. "I was just feeling it."
The entire Duke team was feeling it.
The Blue Devils made 13 triples and shot 46.4 percent from downtown. The Durham natives entered the contest shooting 39.2 percent from long distance, which has them ranked among the nation's top 20 in that category.
They were just 9 of 24 shooting from everywhere else on the floor.
"We allowed them to do what they do best and knock down threes," said FSU coach Leonard Hamilton. "It was very difficult for us to get over the hump."
Indeed it was.
Every time it appeared that FSU was going to make a real run at stealing this game, it was Duke respondeding with big-time shot after big-time shot. It was directly opposite of what happened at Cameron Indoor Stadium when these two teams met back in late January.
It started with Austin Rivers, who came out of the gate the second half and connected on two threes that gave the Blue Devils an 11-point advantage.
Then it was Ryan Kelly who decided to join the party.
The ‘Noles had cut the lead to three when Kelly rose up from the baseline and drilled a trey that extended the lead back to six.
However, FSU wouldn't wilt and continued to fight back. On the very next trip down the floor, Bernard James completed a three-point play that once again would cut the lead in half.
That was as close as the Seminoles would get.
Duke's Seth Curry came down the floor on the next possession and hit another difficult shot that was contested quite well by Jeff Peterson. That conversion sealed Florida State's fate and sent an enthusiastic crowd home disappointed.
Still, this contest was more about how well the Dukies played than how poorly the Seminoles performed.
Sure, there were missed open looks, poor free-throw shooting and costly turnovers in key situations, but the ‘Noles exerted as much effort as they could to try to pull out a win.
It was just the Blue Devils' night.
"Whenever they got a good look from the perimeter, they made us pay," Hamilton said. "That's what great teams do."
Matt Ritter is the basketball reporter for NoleDigest.com and a graduate student in Media Communication Studies at Florida State.
Duke's 3-pointers bury the Seminoles
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