clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Some Thoughts On Duke’s Win At Florida State

That game was about overcoming setbacks and about freshmen rising to the occasion.

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

NCAA Basketball: Duke at Florida State
Jan 12, 2019; Tallahassee, FL, USA; Duke Blue Devils players celebrate with forward Cam Reddsih (2) after winning the game against the Florida State Seminoles at Donald L. Tucker Center.
Melina Myers-USA TODAY Sports

Duke and Florida State have developed an interesting rivalry, at least in Tallahassee, where Florida State has managed to beat Duke reasonably often. Not so much in Cameron although Michael Snaer’s buzzer beater in Cameron was superb.

Still, Leonard Hamilton puts together deep, athletic teams that give just about everyone trouble and that are usually capable of a deep run in the NCAA Tournament.

This year’s team looks to be no exception. On Saturday FSU dunked all over Duke and gave Zion Williamson fits before his injury (he still nearly had a first-half double-double with 11 points and eight rebounds).

Florida State is a load and if Cam Reddish hadn't nailed the final shot, a three pointer, Florida State would have pulled off yet another upset of Duke.

And while Reddish deserves a lot of praise for his big game - he finished with 23 points, shot 9-13 and hit 5-8 of his three point attempts - when the game is discussed today back in Durham, his two key mistakes in the final minute will surely come up: his turnover with :45 left and then a subsequent foul on Florida State’s PJ Savoy with :15 on the clock.

He had a great game and in fact won it, but that won’t go unnoticed or unmentioned.

There is an inescapable fact about Duke’s win that hasn’t been discussed enough in our opinion although we haven’t seen everything and that’s this: a very young Duke team defeated a team that had dazzling athleticism and a wildly supportive home crowd. Duke lost Zion Williamson for the second half and played the deepest, most athletic team in the ACC with just seven players for the final 20 minutes.

A team with 4 12 freshmen, two captains who barely scored last year, a big man who has been limited during his career by injuries and a sophomore guard who is Doug Collins/Craig Neal skinny pulled off a stunner on the road. We haven’t been able to confirm this exact quote but if it’s true it’s just as remarkable: that after enduring a fair amount of criticism for erratic play this season, and after two critical mistakes in the last :45, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski looked at Cam Reddish in the final huddle and said “are you ready Cam?”

Krzyzewski was confident, Reddish was ready and has something powerful to build on for the rest of the season.

Which leads us back to Florida State.

Hamilton has become, by far, the best coach FSU has had in decades. Only Hugh Durham, who took Florida State to the title game in 1972, was better.

His FSU teams have made the ACC a better league. But we have to ask this question: why does Florida State consistently come up short in big games?

This game is a case in point. Why did Terance Mann not even follow a dangerous shooter like Reddish? There was no one anywhere near the kid.

Last year Michigan had a four-point lead in the closing seconds and after Savoy took a rushed three, Hamilton conceded with :13 left, saying after the game that “that game was over.” Well it was after that.

It’s baffling how often Florida State has just more or less fumbled games away at the end or, in the case of Michigan, just given up.

Hamilton is 70 now and he’s not going to change. And he’s made Florida State basketball relevant and a desirable job whenever he steps down. Imagine what, say, Gregg Marshall could build on there.

Even so, his inability to manage close games keeps a very good program from becoming great.

And we should say a word about RJ Barrett, who has also taken a fair amount of criticism at least partly because Williamson can get his points so efficiently and has games where he shoots 13-16 while Barrett shoots something like 12-26.

As we’ve said several times, this is a guy with an alpha mentality. Look at how many times he drove Saturday and ended up on the floor. He comes at the game with a relentless mentality and he knows he can dominate.

No one criticized him for shooting too much against Florida State. In fact his aggressiveness kept Duke in the game.

Against Gonzaga, we saw how aggressiveness could work against him as he tried repeatedly - and someone should say courageously - to score at the end of the game.

He wasn’t far enough along to understand that he could be just as valuable as a decoy or passer.

At Florida State, he understood it.

On the final play, FSU clearly expected him to get the ball and the defense moved towards him as he moved towards the in-bound. Looming nearby was 7-4 Christ Koumanje, who was harassing Tre Jones as he attempted to get the ball in play.

Barrett went to the corner with his hands asking for the ball and MJ Walker all over him.

Koumanje was really going after the much smaller Jones and waving his long arms and legs like a windmill.

Somewhat lost in the moment was how Jones dealt with Koumanje, who is 14” taller.

He looked to his right, where Duke’s last options, Marques Bolden and Jack White, were in the lane. Perhaps that’s why Mann went to the basket rather than sticking with Reddish. Koumanje obliged him by shifting to the right long enough for Jones to whip the ball to Reddish, who was all by his lonesome as he stepped up and into Duke history.

Consider this: Duke had three freshmen involved in the play and everyone of them executed their role flawlessly. Barrett understood that he was going to be targeted and that Reddish would not. Reddish went to his spot and waited, unguarded. And Jones, with a subtle look to his right, fooled Koumanje enough to move him just far enough to get a pass past his very long arm to Reddish, who nailed the shot and thus passes into Duke lore.

All three freshmen rose to the occasion and executed a winning play brilliantly.

If you want to take the long view here, it’s this: Duke overcame the absence of a transcendent talent and three guys who have played just 15 games operated like experienced surgeons.

The Gonzaga loss continues to pay dividends.

If you're going to shop Amazon please start here and help DBR
DBR Auctions|Blue Healer Auctions| Drop us a line