TALLAHASSEE, Fla.—In the first game following his suspension for tripping outside of the friendly confines of Cameron Indoor Stadium, guard Grayson Allen was the subject of a handful of signs—most with jabs at the junior’s tripping incidents—shown on the scoreboard at the Donald L. Tucker Center during the pregame shootaround.
Things did not get much better for Allen and his team when they took the floor in front of a raucous Seminole crowd hoping to watch their team achieve the best start in program history.
No. 9 Florida State took control with a 10-0 run midway through the second half of an 88-72 win against No. 7 Duke Tuesday night. Sophomore Luke Kennard led the way for the Blue Devils with a team-high 23 points and freshman Jayson Tatum added 21, but Duke’s offense struggled against the Seminoles’ physicality on the perimeter and tied a season-high with 16 turnovers.
“We just need to bring our own energy and come together more,” Allen said. “I don’t think we shared the ball well tonight. I don’t know how many assists we had, but it wasn’t close to our totals from the last two games. We can’t do that. We need to stick to what we do best on offense.”
Allen left the game with 5:36 remaining following a battle for a loose ball but said in the locker room after the contest that he is fine and not injured.
Facing its toughest challenge to date in ACC play without the services of co-captain Amile Jefferson, who was sidelined with a right-foot bone bruise, Duke (14-3, 2-2 in the ACC) opted for a smaller look with Tatum shifting back to the four spot. Although the Blue Devils were able to spread the floor, Duke paid dearly on the glass and was outrebounded 38-30 by the relentless Seminoles (16-1, 4-0), who racked up 56 points in the paint.
“We just tried to fight them. We knew they had a relatively big lineup and that they would crash the glass hard, so we just made an emphasis on trying to box out and all five of us trying to help rebounding,” senior Matt Jones said. “They played with a lot of energy tonight and that ultimately got us.”
Florida State was led by the backcourt duo of Dwayne Bacon and Xavier Rathan-Mayes, who combined for 34 points and facilitated the Seminole offense during the game-changing run.
Rathan-Mayes—who was tripped by Allen when the teams met a year ago—proved to be a tough cover for Duke, getting to the basket time and time again as 18 of his 21 points came after halftime.
“This one was personal. Ever since he did that, I’ve been waiting a long time to see him again and it was good to finally see him again,” Rathan-Mayes said. “Grayson Allen is the head of the snake—where he goes, they go. I wanted to frustrate him and make him second-guess and it kind of kick-started our offense.”
As the boos and expletives rained down nearly every time he touched the ball, Allen excelled early as Duke’s primary ball-handler. The junior racked up four quick assists before attempting a shot and showed his connection with Jones, who scored five consecutive points midway through the first half to steady the Blue Devils after the home team came out of the gates on fire.
But Florida State’s 12-man rotation showcased its depth and continued to attack a Duke team that struggled to defend without fouling and put the Seminoles in the bonus before the midway point of the first half.
After the Blue Devils captured their first lead of the game by flustering Florida State with a switch to zone defense, the Seminoles responded with a 10-0 run of its own behind the sophomore duo of PJ Savoy and Terance Mann. Florida State capitalized on Jefferson’s absence and used its size to outscore Duke 26-16 in the paint in the first half to take a four-point lead into the locker room.
“What makes them hard to prepare for is how good they are,” interim head coach Jeff Capel said. “We can’t simulate their athleticism, their length, their relentless pressure they constantly put on you and the waves of guys they bring in.”
The final 20 minutes belonged to the Seminoles as the Blue Devils continued to struggle with the penetration of Florida State’s guards. Bacon and Rathan-Mayes’ drives to the basket set up forward Jonathan Isaac and big man Michael Ojo for good looks. Although the Blue Devils were able stay within single digits for much of the half, the Seminoles’ depth and length slowly wore down Duke.
The effect was evident on the other end of the floor as the crisp Duke offense from recent games appeared bogged down and stagnant. With Allen exiting the game down the stretch, the Blue Devils struggled to generate open looks and were forced to rely on the isolation play of Tatum and Kennard.
As a team, Duke finished with just 10 assists on the evening.
“We just made mistakes,” Tatum said. “For myself, when I got tired, I made dumb passes and started turning it over so that’s something I need to work on—just get in better shape and when I do get tired, not make dumb decisions.”
Things will not got any easier for Allen and the Blue Devils as they will look to avoid falling below .500 in conference play when they hit the road to take on No. 14 Louisville Saturday.