Within about four minutes Saturday afternoon's game between the 5th-ranked Duke Blue Devils and the Florida State Seminoles was over. Duke started on an 11-0 run, had an 18-2 advantage by the first media timeout and easily handled FSU 79-60 at the Tucker Center to improve to 19-2 on the season.
For Florida State, the loss both puts into serious jeopardy the Seminoles post-season chances, but also shines light on deficiencies that have plagued FSU for much of the season.
Without Terrance Shannon, and with Boris Bojanovsky and Michael Ojo still developing, Florida State is vulnerable inside. They struggle to rebound and teams can penetrate and find points in the paint.
That was the case early on against Duke as the Seminoles shot poorly and watched the Blue Devils make good passes and run their offense effectively on the other end of the court. The Seminoles shot just 29% in the first half to Duke's 62% and went into the locker room trailing by 20, 42-22.
"I wasn't disappointed in our looks or our execution," said Leonard Hamilton. "I think early on they were [a lot more] disruptive. We were over-playing, but even though we were over-playing we were able to get good looks and get the ball where we wanted to. They kept us from our first or maybe our second option, but then we went to our third, fourth option and those guys were open as well but we still didn't finish."
Despite getting good looks, nothing was dropping for the FSU offense on what ended up being a very cold shooting night. And on the defensive end, Duke continued to make the extra pass, find the open shooter and hurt Florida State when things didn't open up inside.
Things improved in the second half, but after two three-pointers from Seth Curry and Rasheed Sulaimon started things off, Duke's 26-point lead proved far too big for Florida State to cut into.
For most of the final 20 minutes it was as if the Seminoles were treading water, scoring points just to keep pace with Duke and their 20-plus point lead.
Even as the Florida State scorers started to find some rhythm it was too little too late. Duke had jumped out far enough early on that nothing the Seminoles did managed to get them back within striking distance.
Michael Snaer had a rough night, shooting 3-13 and contributing just 7 points. Aaron Thomas was the lone bright spot for the Seminoles, scoring 14 points on 4-7 shooting and managing to carry the Florida State offense as it lurched to an uninspired first half start. Okaro White had 7 and Ian Miller was held to just 4.
FSU did manage to shoot 56% in the second half, but it was not nearly enough and Duke's 59% kept the Blue Devils well ahead of pace on their way to a 19-point lead.
“We’re 4-4 [in the ACC] and if we’re going to have to find a way to get back into the NCAA conversation we’re going to have to do something exceptional, we’re going to have to do something outside the box,” said Hamilton. “We’re not going to have very much room for error.”
Next up for Florida State, road games at Georgia Tech and Wake Forest before they host Miami at the Tucker center February 13th.
Notebook: Leonard Hamilton was much more positive following Saturday's loss than usual, despite some offensive issues he spoke highly of Florida State's adjustments on the defensive end and chalked up the first half to a 'bad shooting day...' Duke shot 60% on the afternoon, one of the highest opposing shooting performances Leonard Hamilton's defenses have given up in several seasons... Hamilton said afterwards that for FSU to make the NCAA tournament now they're going to need to do something big, "something outside the box," and that they have no margin for error... Hamilton concluded by saying his team's biggest issue is not playing hard, it's playing smart and with consistency.
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