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Duke Downs Florida State, 86-67

It wasn’t the FSU we’re used to seeing but they were still a worthy opponent.

Florida State v Duke
DURHAM, NORTH CAROLINA - DECEMBER 31: Jaylen Blakes #2 of the Duke Blue Devils reacts during the second half of their game against the Florida State Seminoles at Cameron Indoor Stadium on December 31, 2022 in Durham, North Carolina. Duke won 86-67.
Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

Florida State came to play in Cameron Saturday and they definitely competed hard, but it was a bridge too far for the Fightin’ Hammies as Duke won without too much trouble.

Florida State has a couple of basic problems. Well, three really: #1) Injuries. Florida State has a terrible time with injuries since last year and that continues; #2) the offense isn’t really all that good, at least not right now, and #3) the talent is down.

There’s no Scottie Barnes, no Jonathan Isaac, no Malik Beasley. There are some really good pieces, but the offense isn’t coherent.

In general, Leonard Hamilton’s defense has always been good and it wasn’t bad here, but offense has always been more squishy.

The FSU formula, for now, is broken.

And Duke’s defense is really good: the Blue Devils forced at least three shot clock violations and there were several times that FSU had to chunk up a shot as the clock expired. Florida State shot 42.9 percent overall but just 4-15 on threes. The line kept them from being blown out - they were 21-26 there.

Duke started with a bang as Dereck Lively had a huge block to start things off. It was really impressive.

The first half was a bit rocky offensively though. Coach Jon Scheyer made a lineup change, putting Jaylen Blakes in in place of Tyrese Proctor. Blakes made the most of his opportunity, scoring 17, including 4-6 on threes. He also had three assists.

Kyle Filipowski didn’t score in the first half and finished with six points and five boards. He was visibly frustrated and when he came out at one point in the second half, Scheyer stopped him and had a bit of a conversation, presumably to tell him that it happens. As Dean Smith once said in exasperation: freshmen!

He’ll be fine. Next play.

Jeremy Roach looked more like himself than he did during the Wake Forest game, but at one point in the second half, he stubbed his toe and clearly it’s still painful. He came out but later came back in and also nailed a three, all of which suggests that it may be the sort of injury you can’t make better but maybe can’t make worse, either.

If you had suggested that Blakes and Ryan Young would combine for 37 points, who would have believed you?

Well they did: Young got 20 and also grabbed 12 boards for a very, very good night and even better since Filipowski was off his feed, and both he and Lively picked up early fouls. Lively finished with three while Filipowski had four.

Young didn’t miss a shot from the floor or line. How often can you say that?

Coming off the bench, Proctor seemed determined to be more aggressive and drove quite a bit, sometimes in a good way and sometimes less so. He did find teammates for some keen assists though.

He finished with four points and three assists, while Jacob Grandison added six points.

One of the most exciting parts of this game was seeing Dariq Whitehead showing some real positive arrogance. At one point, not that this is good, he got called for a double technical along with FSU’s Matthew Cleveland. The T is no good, but the desire to stand his ground and show some fight? That was really good.

He finished with 16 including one sensational drive where he sidestepped his defender and laid it in with his left hand while jumping, we think, off his right foot. He shot 5-11 including 2-6 on threes, but that’s coming along. The main takeaway here is that he’s playing instinctively and we’re seeing a fluid, natural ballplayer emerge.

The bench had 46 points, which is pretty fabulous.

On the downside, Duke had several foolish turnovers. It wasn’t important in this game, but against, say, Virginia, that’ll be fatal.

Generally speaking, Duke was clearly the better team, but keep in mind that this wasn’t the full Florida State team we saw. Hamilton is having an epic streak of bad luck.

After the game, Hamilton was very gracious, and said this about Duke and Scheyer: “I’ve got to give a lot of credit to Scheyer, getting these guys to play the Duke Way. I don’t see very much difference in how they played in the past to now, and I attribute that to him...his ability to get his guys to get them play hard, moving the ball, and playing unselfish.”

That’s a great point actually. Scheyer is always going to be compared to his predecessor Mike Krzyzewski, at least until he creates his own identity, but there’s one area where he’s arguably better already and that’s in ball movement. It’s not constant yet, but at times this year, Duke has moved the ball brilliantly, almost clinically. It’s beautiful to see. We’re not saying Duke didn’t do it well under Coach K, but it appears to be a particular strength for Scheyer.

Of course that also speaks well of his ability to communicate and teach.

For his part, Scheyer said going small helped Duke to build a lead that FSU couldn’t surmount - they cut the lead to 11 in the second half at one point but couldn't get it in single digits.

It was a solid win, coming after the long Christmas break and after the disappointing loss at Wake Forest on the 20th. Next up for the Devils will be a trip to Raleigh for a traditional rivalry game against the Wolfpack. That’s on January 4th, or next Wednesday for anyone who needs a specific day of the week.