With their three most important big men all in foul trouble in the first half, #4 Duke could have been in some trouble at #16 Florida State on Thursday night. But Florida State was unable to take advantage of this offensively, and the Seminoles were unable to corral Andre Dawkins or Austin Rivers either. Dawkins was on fire in the first half as he knocked down five of seven three-pointers (18 points) on his way to a 22-point night and Rivers added 20 in Duke's 74-66 victory. The win moves Duke (11-2 ACC) into a tie for first place in the ACC with North Carolina, and Florida State drops into third at 10-3.
Duke shot 10-for-23 from beyond the arc in the first meeting, so their prowess in that department didn't come as a surprise to the Seminoles. Florida State was able to make seven of their own at Cameron Indoor, including Michael Snaer's game-winner at the horn. No such luck at the Donald L. Tucker Center for the home team, who shot 4-for-15 on the night compared to Duke's 13-for-28 output. FSU took 12 of their three-pointers in the second half but made the same number as they did in the first (two). And their issues inside of the arc (10-for-28) prevented them from taking advantage of the Plumlee brothers having three fouls apiece and Ryan Kelly two, resulting in a 39-32 Duke lead at the half.
"I thought Duke's defensive pressure tonight kept us out of any type of offensive rhythm," said FSU head coach Leonard Hamilton. "We missed ten free throws we had a lot of looks in the lane in the first half but I thought we came up a little short. We fought back several times, but couldn't get over that hump tonight."
Snaer led the Seminoles with 18 points and Bernard James added 13 and nine rebounds, but they were the only two players to reach double figures. Four did so in the first meeting, and with guards Deividas Dulkys and Luke Loucks combining to shoot 2-for-11 from the field (five points) it was going to be tough to beat Duke with Dawkins and Rivers shooting as they were. A Dawkins three with 11:23 remaining in the first half gave Duke a 15-13 lead, triggering an 11-4 run, with the junior scoring nine of those points.
Dawkins would make two more three-pointers within 24 seconds of each other, pushing Duke's lead to 39-26 with 2:03 to go in the half. Florida State closed out the first half on a 6-0 run, but the distance established proved to be too much to overcome. It would be Rivers (12 points), Kelly (nine) and Seth Curry (seven) who would do the bulk of the scoring for Duke in the second half, and of the three Blue Devil forwards in foul trouble just one (Miles Plumlee) ended up fouling out.
The question now is what Duke's ceiling is in regards to March, and if anything Thursday night was a sign that the Blue Devils are more than worthy of the one-seed some bracketologists have given them in early projections. Their RPI (3) and strength of schedule (2) numbers are outstanding, and their 13 RPI Top 100 wins currently lead the nation. With that one-seed comes the question of whether or not Duke can get to New Orleans and the answer has to be "yes" at this stage. Winning at Florida State is definitely a step in the right direction.
Three Notable Performances
1. G Daniel Mullings (New Mexico State)
28 points, 12 rebounds, ten assists and five steals in the Aggies' 115-73 whipping of Hawai'i.
2. F Ken Horton (Central Connecticut State)
39 points (15-20 FG), 13 rebounds, six blocked shots and five assists in the Blue Devils' 78-63 win over Mount St. Mary's.
3. F Julian Boyd (LIU Brooklyn)
21 points and 20 rebounds in the Blackbirds' 91-80 win at Fairleigh Dickinson to clinch their second straight NEC regular season title.
Cincinnati picks up a key win and more in Thursday's Quick Hitters