DURHAM, N.C. – A cold shooting start from the Duke Blue Devils opened a slight window for Florida State to potentially pull off an upset.
The Blue Devils then heated up and shut that window in a hurry.
Duke started 0 for 9 from the floor and made just four of its first 20 shots. But the Seminoles couldn’t take advantage and, once Duke’s shooters got going, couldn’t keep up in an 80-65 loss at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
The Seminoles will look (16-12, 6-10 ACC) to snap a five-game skid on Saturday when they host No. 23 Notre Dame (4 p.m., ESPN2).
“This was a very difficult matchup for us, we knew that coming in,” FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said. “…We had them shooting a reasonable field-goal percentage, but we obviously turned the ball over, missed some layups and couldn’t hit free throws.
“We were down 13 at the half and we thought that we played defense about as well as we could, under the circumstances, with who we are this particular year.”
The Seminoles finished with a better shooting percentage, more rebounds and more points in the paint than the Blue Devils.
But they were undone in large part thanks to 15 turnovers – on which Duke capitalized for 16 points – and a heavy Duke advantage on the offensive glass.
Although FSU finished with a 36-34 rebounding edge, the Blue Devils grabbed 14 offensive boards and converted 15 second-chance points.
“That just killed us,” freshman guard Dwayne Bacon said. “Killed us a lot. We shot better, rebounded better. It’s just offensive rebounds killed us, big time.”
After their 4-for-20 start, the Blue Devils closed the half by making 10 of their next 15 attempts. That coincided with a 27-12 run that turned a one-point FSU lead into a 13-point deficit at halftime.
The Seminoles, meanwhile, shot 50 percent (27-54) from the floor, but attempted 11 fewer shots than the Blue Devils.
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said the Blue Devils found success by limiting FSU’s hurrying back on defense and limiting FSU’s opportunities for quick points in transition.
“When you miss – and we missed a lot – they really can bring the ball down,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “We did a good job of making them a half-court team.”
Added senior guard Devon Bookert: “They put four men back when we were taking the up the ball so we couldn’t sprint the ball up. They just did little clever stuff to try to slow us down.”
Bacon posted 12 points and 10 rebounds for his fourth double-double of the season, and sophomore Xavier Rathan-Mayes added a team-high 13 points. But the guard tandem also combined for nine turnovers against just one assist.
Duke committed only five giveaways and also held a heavy advantage at the free-throw line, where it made 15 of 20 attempts. The Seminoles finished 6 of 11 at the line.
“We didn’t really take care of the ball in the first half and I think that was the difference,” said Bookert, who scored 10 points and made two of FSU’s five 3-pointers.
“We shot a pretty good percentage, but how we took care of the ball, I think, was the difference in the game.”
FSU’s road ahead gets a little bit easier, but not by much.
The Seminoles will close the regular season with home games against Notre Dame and Syracuse.
While those games promise to be difficult – the Fighting Irish boast the league’s top offenses, and Syracuse posted a decisive win over FSU earlier this month – Bacon believes they also provide the Seminoles an opportunity to finish strong.
“We’ve just got to keep fighting, don’t give up,” Bacon said. “It’s never too late to make our run. We can make a run from these last two home game and take it to Washington, D.C., for the ACC tournament. And who knows what we can do there?”