After a 10-day layoff for the holidays, the Blue Devils will return to the court Saturday looking to obtain their first conference victory of the season prior to the end of 2017.

No. 4 Duke will do battle for just the second time in three weeks when it hosts No. 24 Florida State at Cameron Indoor Stadium Saturday at 2 p.m. The contest will mark the Blue Devils' first conference game since their 89-84 upset loss against Boston College on the road Dec. 9.

“It’s a different kind of game,” freshman Marvin Bagley III said about conference play after Duke beat Evansville Dec. 20. “It’s a different type of physicality in the post, and everywhere, it is just a different feel. So, we’re ready for it and at the end of the day, it’s basketball. It’s a game that everybody in this locker room loves to play and we’re going to be ready.”

As ACC play approaches, the Blue Devils (12-1, 0-1 in the ACC) will need to do a much better job of defending from the perimeter. In the early going, Duke has used its size advantage in the interior—with four players at least 6-foot-10— to keep its opponents out of the paint, while forcing them to win the game from the outside. 

However, the Blue Devil defense has instead been exploited from the perimeter, which has allowed some opponents to stick around in contests later than Duke would like. This was certainly the case in the defeat against Boston College, when the Blue Devils allowed the Eagles to convert 15 of their 26 3-point attempts on the game, and 11 first-half shots from long distance on 68.8 percent shooting. 

Although Duke did a much better job defensively against Evansville last week—holding the nation’s most efficient 3-point shooting team to just 40 points and five made shots from downtown—Florida State’s ability to knock down the three-ball could cause issues for the Blue Devils, who have spent much of their practice working on improving their perimeter defense.

“Most of practice, that’s what we’ve done,” freshman Wendell Carter Jr. said. “When we have a three-hour practice, two and a half hours of the practice is all only working on defense, and I think that’s been instilled in everybody’s mind that we are changing into a defensive-minded team.”

The Seminoles (11-1, 0-0) boast five shooters with at least 13 made 3-pointers on the season and are constantly a threat to compete from the perimeter. Seniors Phil Cofer and Braian Angola have converted on 48.1 and 42.4 percent of their attempts from downtown, respectively, and will look to take advantage of an inexperienced Duke team Saturday. 

Freshman M.J. Walker—the 27th best recruit in the Class of 2017 according to ESPN—has also shown his ability to can the deep ball early on, draining 46.0 percent of his attempts off the bench for the Seminoles, who tend to live from the perimeter due to their lack of a dominant offensive force on the interior. 

6-foot-6 forward Terrance Mann leads Florida State in scoring with an average of 15.1 points per game, while converting at a 63.7 percent clip from the field primarily by attacking the paint. 

Mann could have trouble against Duke freshmen big men 6-foot-10 Wendell Carter Jr. and 6-foot-11 Marvin Bagley III, who have dominated the paint on both sides of the ball. 

But there once again could be a learning curve for the freshmen, playing in just their second conference game. 

“They have to experience it,” Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski said of the difference of playing against a conference foe. “We have a team that has to learn through experience, whereas a lot of teams have experienced players. Talent is one thing, but experienced talent is the best.”

Bagley leads the Blue Devils in both scoring and rebounding, averaging 21.1 and 10.9 per contest thus far, while Carter has added 13.7 points and 8.4 rebounds per game for the Blue Devils. Duke has used its size on the interior to its advantage, and is currently tied for third in the nation with 15.4 offensive rebounds per contest. The Blue Devils have also made the most of their extra opportunities and are second in the country with an average of 94.2 points per game. 

Saturday’s matchup will be intriguing as a dominant offensive team faces an effective defensive team in Florida State. The Seminoles have held all 12 of their opponents to fewer than 80 points, a mark the Blue Devils have failed to reach just one time this season.

Florida State will be without its 7-foot-4 center Christ Koumadje, who is currently nursing a foot injury. 7-foot freshman Ike Obiagu has taken extended minutes in his absence and has averaged 3.0 blocks per game in his team’s last five contests.

Following Saturday’s matchup, the Blue Devils will continue conference play when they travel to Raleigh to face N.C. State Jan. 6, looking for their first victory of 2018.