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Duke Chopped Down By FSU In Tallahassee

Florida State deserved the win but it’s no reason to panic.

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NCAA Basketball: Duke at Florida State
Jan 10, 2017; Tallahassee, FL, USA; Duke Blue Devils forward Jayson Tatum (0) looks to pass the ball past Florida State Seminoles guard CJ Walker (2) during the first half at the Donald L. Tucker Center. 
Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

Florida State won a rugged battle with Duke Tuesday night, prevailing 88-72.

There’s no shame in saying that the better team won. FSU deserved to win, clearly. Leonard Hamilton has put together a terrific team and it could be FSU’s best since the Hugh Durham era. As you may know, Durham led FSU to the Final Four and the NCAA championship game in 1972. He also discovered Dave Cowens - not a bad claim to fame.

Duke made a lot of mistakes in this game but the bottom line is this: despite losing, despite competing without Coach K and Amile Jefferson, this was miles from what happened at Virginia Tech.

Let’s start with what Coach K said recently. This team is behind where it should be because of the injuries.

That struck again here with Jefferson being out.

Duke’s leading rebounder?

Six-foot-three Frank Jackson, who had six (actually he tied with Chase Jeter).

Harry Giles got the start inside and he showed some flashes. For one he’s much more willing to shoot now and he’s becoming fairly consistent. In his last three games he’s shot 12-22 (54.45). But he also got in foul trouble and was limited to 10 minutes.

Grayson Allen’s move to the point continues to be interesting. Allen took just six shots - making two - but had five assists and some really outstanding passes, some of which were mishandled.

Matt Jones was Matt Jones. He busted his butt on defense and scored 10. Like we’ve seen in other games, Jones periodically recognizes that Duke is in trouble and tries to step up.

It didn’t work as well in this game. He played well but not as well as he has at times. Jones always plays hard and with heart though and this game was no exception.

Most of the offense fell to Luke Kennard and Jayson Tatum. Kennard finished with 23 points on 8-15 from the floor and Tatum had 21 on 7-17.

In Tatum, we saw an interesting paradox: a guy who is mature beyond his years who got caught in a number of freshman mistakes.

Like Jones, he has an instinct to jump in and bail his team out. In this game, it led to some unforced errors. He tried to bull his way to the basket a few times and threw a few unwise passes (he led the team with four turnovers).

On the other hand, as we said, he busted his butt trying to turn the game around. Tatum played extremely hard and he’s not a guy who is marking time until the draft. He really play and works hard on both ends.

We can live with the freshmen stuff.

Chase Jeter came off the bench for the first time since Virginia Tech and played well. He rebounded and defended, which was what Duke needed, but he couldn’t provide inside scoring, which Duke also needed.

Frank Jackson came off the bench too and also played with a ton of heart. He really showed another side of his game against Florida State.

Duke fans know he can score but he showed an intense passion in this game, a willingness to really mix things up. In some respects, though certainly not scoring, this was his best game at Duke.

Marques Bolden also came off the bench but played just four minutes.

Duke’s bench scored just four points.

This is in contrast to Florida State’s bench, which seems to run all the way to the beach.

FSU’s bench score 21 points and five players scored.

As for FSU in general, what you can say? They played great. They played together. It’s a super team.

You could single out a lot of people for praise but we’d like to start with Michael Ojo. He’s like a 7-1 version of Michael Clarke Duncan. He’s big enough that Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson who plays the Mountain on Game Of Thrones would think twice before pushing him around.

He’s never been very effective though.

Clearly he’s never going to be a great run-and-jump athlete, but he’s made himself into a viable center and there’s just no one out there who can match him pound for pound and round for round.

It’s so cool that he’s improved this much.

As for the rest, like Allen, Xavier Rathan-Mayes has made himself into a solid point guard despite being a more natural shooting guard. Dwayne Bacon, Terrence Mann and Jonathan Isaac are a solid offensive group backed by guys like Jarquez Smith and PJ Savoy.

The Seminoles have an impressive array of athletes who can both defend and shoot. They’re going to be a load for anyone.

Coming up they visit UNC then host Notre Dame and Louisville. If they win those games, which they certainly could, they’ll be a serious contender for the Final Four.

As of now, barring any sort of unlikely collapse, we’d see them as at least a Sweet Sixteen team.

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