Once again the Blue Devils dropped a tough, close, but very winnable game – this time to Leonard Hamilton’s Florida State Seminoles team who bested the blue devils in overtime 79-78.
It seemed the Blue Devils were on a roll after finishing the first half strong with a 7-0 run. But the second half saw things start to get away from the Blue Devils as the Seminoles would go up by as much as 9 on the strength of both their defensive efforts to stifle Duke as well as their offensive rebounding (or Duke’s lack of finishing off defensive series – however you want to phrase it). A combination of Paolo Banchero taking control and a switch to a zone defense helped the Blue Devils battle back to take the lead in the waning minutes of the second half. Duke was able to effectively keep the Seminoles out of the paint and chip away, eventually overtaking FSU by 2 points. Regulation came down to a final Florida State possession and for that possession the Blue Devils switched from zone back to their base man-to-man defense but RayQuan Evans nailed a runner high off the glass, over both Paolo Banchero and Mark Williams to send the game into overtime.
Overtime saw the Seminoles once again take the lead, in a back and forth affair the Blue Devils found themselves down by one but with one last chance to win. A blocked shot on a Wendell Moore jumper secured the win for FSU and sent the Devils back to Durham once again faltering in a game that should have been one for the win column.
There’s a lot you can say about the final possession by the Blue Devils but more importantly was what put them in a situation to have to depend on a final shot to win. Defensive rebounding and not completing defensive possessions has been a costly trait for this Blue Devils squad. Against the Seminoles the Blue Devils gave up 19 offensive rebounds with led to 12 second change points. In a game where Duke shot far better than Florida State, they still lost because they could not finish off defensive sequences. If that were the only issue, Duke still may have pulled the game out. Unfortunately for Duke, they played a poor floor game as well, turning the ball over 15 times giving the Seminoles 14 extra points. Those are not survivable statistics for this Blue Devil team, those aren’t survivable statistics for MOST teams.
Duke is a good team but they are not a good team when they aren’t valuing the ball and that has been an issue as of late. It’s hard to say whether it’s due to missing roughly a month of basketball with a 2 week pause for exams and another 2 week pause for COVID, or this team isn’t as tough as advertised. There are teams left on this schedule that if Duke does not right the ship, will be able to duplicate this result. The issue for the Blue Devils is with an apparent weak ACC there is only room to fall and every team is looking for the Blue Devils as their ticket into the NCAA Tournament. Until this team steps to the mat with an attitude of fight for 40 they are ripe for the picking.
Paolo Banchero led the Blue Devils in scoring with 20 points, he also led in rebounding with 12 and assists with 7. Mark Williams added 15 points, 7 rebounds and 3 blocks for the Blue Devils and Jeremy Roach contributed 6 assists to only 1 turnover.
I almost didn’t include leading scorers, leading rebounders or leading assists numbers because the only numbers that mattered aside from the score were 19 offensive rebounds for Florida State and 15 turnovers for the Blue Devils.