In search of revenge after a Michael Snaer buzzer-beater stunned them back in January, the fourth-ranked Duke Blue Devils arrived in Tallahassee on Thursday night looking to keep pace with North Carolina in the ACC standings.
In a physical game that saw a total of 43 fouls called, the Seminoles routinely allowed Mike Krzyzewksi's team to set up shop from the perimeter, and were completely unable to take advantage of Duke's early foul trouble in the frontcourt. When the final buzzer sounded the scoreboard read 74-66 in favor of the visitors, but this was a much closer, and much more physical game than the final tally might lead you to believe.
Here are five thoughts on the game...
Duke will get its looks from the perimeter, regardless of opponent, and regardless of scheme. Florida State is about as good as any defensive unit in the country when it comes to taking offenses out of their comfort zones and closing out on shooters, but that didn't stop Coach K's kids from jacking up 28 bombs tonight. Numerous extra passes made by Duke players ended up being the difference here, and these yielded a vast amount of the uncontested looks from the outside we saw tonight. We know the Blue Devils have the personnel to make opponents pay with the three-ball whenever the opportunity presents itself, but actually getting the time and space in order to quantify these as "good looks" has been a challenge. Tonight, though, this wasn't the case.
- The Seminoles are still in the infancy stages of learning how to attack a defense. Duke's frontcourt trio (Plumlee x 2, Kelly) each had three fouls less than four minutes into the second half, and any adept coaching staff would have immediately exploited a situation like this. But, instead of actively trying to feed the ball inside to Bernard James, who attempted a mere eight of his team's 63 field goals, Florida State acted as if Anthony Davis himself was down there protecting the rim. The middle of Duke's defense was wide open for entry passes literally all night long, and when you toss in Duke's obvious foul problem, it's pretty hard to fathom why the Seminoles refused to fully take advantage.
- Free-throw shooting was abysmal for both squads tonight. Austin Rivers, who might be the most inexplicably-bad free-throw shooter in college hoops at 65%, shot 4-for-7. Florida State's Jeff Peterson turned in a 2-for-6 performance off the bench, and teammate Ian Miller shot 2-for-4. It seemed like everyone that went to the line in this game, left it with a parting gift: a brick. Combined, the two schools shot 60.41% from the charity stripe, which is a terrible sign when you consider the handful of late-game situations these programs will each inevitably face over the next month.
It's becoming hard to shake the notion that Andre Dawkins will ultimately determine how far Duke advances in the NCAA Tournament. He's streaky as hell, sure, but you really can't say enough about this kid and how amazing it is to see him run off strings of two, three, or four 3-pointers in a row. Not even some of the best spot-up shooters in the country can do that kind of stuff in big games. Dawkins drained five triples in the opening half tonight, but then predictably cooled after the break as Florida State scrambled to keep him in check. When the kid is on, it doesn't matter if he has a hand obstructing his view or six feet of wide open space, the ball is usually going to sail through that net. When the time comes for Duke's season to come down to a last-second shot, it might be prudent for Dawkins, and not Rivers, to be the one getting the look. Even if we know that probably won't happen.
Mason Plumlee's line tonight (1 point, 5 rebounds, 4 fouls, 3 turnovers) was nearly identical to his terrible night against Boston College on Sunday (3 points, 3 rebounds, 4 fouls, 3 turnovers). To put it bluntly, numbers like this just aren't going to cut it from a guy averaging 11 & 10 each night and anchoring the post for one of the best teams in America. An off-game like we saw against BC was easy to brush aside because, well, it was Boston College. But against an elite team like FSU on the road with the conference regular season title potentially on the line, Plumlee needs to be better than this. What this tells opponents is that this kid can be taken out of his game much easier than most double-digit rebounding big men around the nation, and that it's a necessity to gameplan around attacking him if you plan on beating this Duke team.