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Duke 73 Florida State 70

Duke got away with some sloppy play down the stretch and still won on the road.

Feb 9, 2015; Tallahassee, FL, USA; Florida State Seminoles forward Phil Cofer (0) has his shot blocked by Duke Blue Devils center Marshall Plumlee (40) during the first half of the game at the Donald L. Tucker Center.
Feb 9, 2015; Tallahassee, FL, USA; Florida State Seminoles forward Phil Cofer (0) has his shot blocked by Duke Blue Devils center Marshall Plumlee (40) during the first half of the game at the Donald L. Tucker Center.
Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

What a weird game.

Duke missed its first eight shots. No one scored at all for the first 16:13, when Florida State's Phil Cofer dunked.

Then no one scored again until Cofer hit another dunk 14:20 in.

Duke's starting frontcourt was matched offensively in the first half by Marshall Plumlee, who had four points.

Yet at halftime, Duke led 32-24.

In the second half, it became a more normal game, with Duke pulling out to a steady 7-10 point lead. But it became clear soon that the Seminoles were not giving up.

With 10:01 left in the second half, Robbie Berwick hit a ridiculous three...and then hit another about 20 seconds later.

Suddenly it was a three point game again.

Duke got a dunk from Jahlil Okafor and threes from Tyus Jones and Justise Winslow to push the lead back to 61-52, but FSU fought back again.

With 57 second left, Florida State's Montay Brandon converted a three point play, and after a Duke miss and turnover, Xavier Rathan-Mayes hit a nifty layup to cut the lead to 70-69.

Quinn Cook time: the senior co-captain hit a pair of free throws to give Duke a three point lead back.

FSU's Devon Bookert split a pair with six seconds left, missing the second intentionally.

Then Quinn Cook made what we thought was the play of the day: the smallish guard anticipated the tactic and darted down the lane to grab the miss.

Naturally, still two down, Florida State had no choice but to foul the 95% free throw shooter.

And naturally Quinn Cook...missed the first.

But he hit the second to give Duke a three point lead back with two seconds on the clock.

Justise Winslow alertly fouled Bookert before he could shoot a three, and he missed  the first and then missed the second intentionally. Duke poked the ball away from Robbie Berwick and the clock finally ran down.

It was pretty much what we said we expected in our preview: it wasn't going to be a pretty game and to win, you would need to get your hands dirty.

That's not an easy thing for a young team, particularly after the stretch Duke has seen: since January 17th, Duke has won at Louisville, beaten Pitt at home, knocked off St. John's in the Garden, lost by four to Notre Dame on the road, beaten undefeated #2 Virginia at Virginia, taken out Georgia Tech and destroyed Notre Dame.

During that stretch, the team also dealt with the circus surrounding Coach K's 1,000th win, the disruption surrounding Rasheed Sulaimon's dismissal from the team and the sudden and necessary incorporation of Grayson Allen into the rotation.

By any reasonable standard getting through all of that with one four-point loss is impressive. But to get through it focused enough to also improve? That's pretty remarkable, not least of all for a team with four freshmen, three of whom start, and a sophomore sixth man.

No one knows what to expect later in the season obviously, but when you look back on it, you should make a special note to remember the eight-game stretch from mid-January to early February, because that stretch really tells you what you need to know about this team's heart.

Tyus Jones, who by the way played 39 minutes (Cook played 40), set a personal Duke record for assists, with 12 of Duke's 14.

Jahlil Okafor, who again picked up two early fouls and who didn't score a basket in the first half, finished with 13 and thus breaks Johnny Dawkins' record for the longest streak of double-figure game.

And it's worth noting that with every win, Coach K also sets two new records: the most career NCAA wins and the most career ACC wins.

As we said it was an odd game in some ways, and Duke got just six points from the bench, but make no mistake: Duke's bench, thin as it is, is becoming a real factor. Matt Jones is the sixth man and has to spell different people, while Plumlee has now come in two games in a row when Okafor was in trouble and helped Duke to extend the lead both times in his absence.

Think about that for a minute.

And while Allen was expected to start making more of an impact next year, he's been asked to do it now...and he's doing it.

He didn't play at all against Notre Dame the first time, but played 11 minutes against the #2 team in the country, 16 against Notre Dame in the rematch and 11 at FSU.

That suggests a level of trust in the young guard and he is playing better with each game.

All things considered, you can look at this game like it was a struggle or like it was the last mile on a journey home. A trip like that is always most tiring at the very end.

Duke went the distance though, and now it is a different team. Let's see what they can do.