The one thing always guaranteed when the Devils face the Seminoles is a street fight, and tonight didn’t disappoint. Two years after Florida State ruined senior night, Duke outscored the Seminoles by 19 in the second, to avoid a repeat performance.
Let’s not waste any time and get right to it.
Big Duke Balls Random Rants:
- This was Duke’s first senior night win since 2005. That’s a little depressing when you think about it.
- Balance. While Henderson and Singler are the clear stars of this team, the Blue Devils again had four players score in double figures. It’s the 4th time in five games (since Elliot Williams was inserted into the lineup) that this has happened.
- Turnovers, or lack of them. Despite basically starting three shooting guards and two forwards, Duke has done an amazing job not turning the ball over. Tonight, the Blue Devils turned it over only seven times (only once in the entire second half on a fluke play that should have been a foul). Again, all this without a true point guard starting (although technically Paulus did start tonight).
So how important has the turnovers (or lack of them) been? Let’s do some basic math, even a Maryland student could understand. Since the lineup change, Duke has won the turnover battle; 82-44. Duke has turned the ball over on average, 7.6 times less than their opponents. Let’s assume that Duke produces points on half of those possessions, which gives Duke a decent 7.6 more points per game. That means, Duke has produced an extra 38 points in their last five games. Can you guess what Duke’s total margin of victory has been over its last five opponents? You guessed it, 38 total points. You see kids, you don’t turn it over, you win the game. This is so key, I’m giving it its own post).
- The Seminoles, much like Virginia Tech this weekend, decided their defensive game plan was to clog the lane, double down on Gerald and force him to his left. Although Gerald ended up with 21 tonight, he needed 17 shots to get there. No big deal. Great players get doubled and the way to make them pay is to drive and dish. Tonight, it worked pretty well. Gerald got five assists, but in reality, he could have had many more. His supporting cast missed at least a half-a-dozen wide open looks.
- However, despite all of the focus by the Noles on Gerald, he still manage to score eight of Duke’s last ten points, beginning with his second three when Duke was down by two with two to play.
- Lance goes down. Don’t underestimate how important this was. While Zoubek and McClure did fine holding down the fort (with a little help from Plumlee), FSU’s game plan was to leave their center and shot blocker sitting in the lane. This is where Thomas would come up big. He’s been the master of hanging around near the baseline, receiving last second passes from Henderson, Singler and Scheyer. He would have forced Alabi to play at least a little bit more honest.
- In case anymore morons are looking for footage to put on You Tube, I believed Elliot Williams walked early on in the second half on his made basket.
- Singler needs 20 minutes to warm up. Don’t quite get it. Singler has produced a total of 10 points in the first half the last two games, but 35 in the second half.
- Duke got out rebounded only by four, which is pretty solid considering how tall Florida State is. Henderson led all Devils with ten boards, securing his first double-double of the year.
- Florida State came into the game as the number one scoring defensive team in the ACC at about 62 points per game. Duke produced 22 more, not bad.
- Billy Packer moment of the game: I can’t recall who announced the game, but sometimes these guys can say some pretty stupid things. With Duke leading 8-4, the guy actually had the nerve to say, “This is danger time for Florida State.” Really? Down four, the third best team in the ACC, the 24th best team in the nation according to the polls, is in danger time with 36 minutes of basketball to play?
- Too bad McClure fouled out of his last game in Cameron, but in reality I believe it was for the best. Zoubek caused more problems for State’s big men and was more effective on the switch off when Douglas needed a screen. How effective? With two and some change to play, FSU led 76-74. The Noles would miss five straight shots before Douglas’ final second three-pointer (producing only two free throws in between).
- Good game played by the Seminoles. I still think they are one shooting guard away from being a ACC contender. With their length, they can be dangerous next year with a little bit more outside help. While they’ll lose Douglas next year (he’s a senior), the Noles have a great recruiting class coming in with three four-star players (two PF’s and a Center) and superstar in Michael Snaer, a five-star shooting guard. While next year they’ll be good, I’d call them an early favorite in 2011 (assuming all players stick around).
S0 what can we take away from this game tonight?
In the last four games (all ACC games), Duke has twice jumped way ahead, only to hold on (Wake Forest, Virginia Tech), or trailed by a little early, but pulled away late (Maryland, Florida State). In all four cases, with about five minutes to go, the game was tight. In all four games, one or two bad possessions and Duke could just as easily be 0-4. But they’re not. They’re 4-0 in those games. They’ve done it at home and they’ve done it on the road.
Some might argue that this proves that Duke is not as good as their record. They could say that thanks to a couple lucky plays or kind calls, Duke is pulling out close games and you know what, maybe they’re right.
I’ll argue though that the benefit of these types of games is, it’s preparing these Devils for the type of games they’re going to face in the tournament. The team does not look fazed when the final five minutes of a game start to click down. Does it mean they’re headed to the final four? Probably not. This team will need some breaks (high seeds being upset, setting up more favorable match ups for Duke) for that to happen. But with the way they’ve been playing, I feel like when this team gets challenged in the first weekend or two, this team will handle it.