Florida State fantasizes fantastic fight, Duke basketball KNOWles better

Duke basketball forward Paolo Banchero (Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports)
Duke basketball forward Paolo Banchero (Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports) /

This Duke basketball team is learning to flush the hopes of inferior foes.

The past few games in Cameron Indoor Stadium had been rather exhaustive for the players, coaching staff, and Duke basketball faithful. “Sure wins” in the minds of fans were hard to come by as Virginia and Wake Forest gave Duke a run for its money, with the Blue Devils falling to the Cavaliers before squeaking by the Demon Deacons.

Florida State entered the matchup on Saturday with the expectations of extending Duke’s home struggles and completing the season sweep in their series. But the Blue Devils had other ideas. With Mike Krzyzewski eyeing his final couple of contests in Durham and the team being in a tight race for the ACC, a win against the Seminoles was essential.

In the first half, Duke’s defense looked almost nonexistent, and Florida State was taking advantage. To go along with that, Paolo Banchero got into some early foul trouble and wasn’t making much noise on the offensive side, taking and making only one shot from the field in the first 20 minutes.

As usual, though, the interior presence of Duke’s big men helped fill the void of the shaky defense and absent Paolo Banchero. Joey Baker also drained four triples, scoring all 12 of his points in the first half.

What was starting to look like another Duke sweat at home quickly turned into sighs of relief as the Blue Devils went on a 10-2 scoring run to end the first half, capped off by a Wendell Moore cross-court assist for an electrifying AJ Griffin slam. The Blue Devils would enter halftime with a 52-41 lead.

A Duke basketball freshman imposing his will down low

In order for Duke to maintain its lead and keep the pressure on Florida State, Paolo Banchero had to get something going on offense. And that’s exactly what happened. Banchero started shooting more and executing in the paint. He would finish with a game-high 17 points and eight rebounds.

Now, I’ve said this time and again, but Banchero’s interior dominance is almost unmatched in the ACC. His ability to frustrate defenses in the post and be a pest on the glass, in large part, has given Duke the energy it needs down the stretch of games.

I’m not discrediting his shooting game. He has a knack for creating mid-range and 3-point buckets. But Banchero is at his best when he takes over in the paint. And that was especially evident in the second half. Take a look at his spray chart from Saturday:

I could go on and on about this metric, but enough about Banchero.

Like always, Trevor Keels had an excellent outing facilitating the basketball. He racked up a game-high eight assists to go along with 13 points. His shooting has been off and on recently, but his reliability in controlling possessions and seeing the court has continued to be the staple of his game. As I stated in one of my tweets, “He keels it.”

The Duke starters would each post double-digit figures in the points column to give the Blue Devils the dominating win they desperately needed at home. Even Coach K’s grandson, Michael Savarino, got in on the action, draining a three to give the “Duke -15 point spread” bettors a win. When the Blue Devils win, we all win.

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