TALLAHASSEE, Fla.—For the second time in as many weeks, Duke basketball has traveled to Florida for a rout. Unlike the 90-63 drubbing they received at the hands of Miami Jan. 23, though, the Blue Devils were the ones dealing out the beating Saturday afternoon at the Donald L. Tucker Center.
Behind a lights-out shooting performance from the backcourt trio of Quinn Cook, Seth Curry and Rasheed Sulaimon, Duke demolished Florida State 79-60 on the Seminoles’ home floor.
While Florida State star guard Michael Snaer went 0-for-5 in the first half and failed to score until the 15:13 mark in the second half, the Blue Devil guards buried the Seminoles from the outset, with 19 points and only two missed shots in the game’s first 10 minutes. Duke (19-2, 6-2 in the ACC) ran out to an 18-2 lead after fewer than six minutes of play, and even a pair of early timeouts from Florida State head coach Leonard Hamilton could not stem the Blue Devil tide.
“Last time we were in Florida, we didn’t show up. We wanted it to be a different story this time,” Sulaimon said. “That’s the kind of statement and kind of message we have to send to each and every team we play, from the beginning.”
Hamilton said after the game that he was pleased with his team’s offensive execution, and indeed the Seminoles did get a number of good early looks—both from close range and from outside—as Duke was pulling away. But an inexperienced Florida State (12-9, 4-4) squad could not convert enough to threaten the growing Duke lead as the Blue Devils’ focused offense registered six assists on its first nine field goals.
“The quality of shot is improved with the number of assists for shots, because then they’re connecting plays. Usually an assisted bucket is more in rhythm,” Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “I thought we had a lot of really good rhythm shots today.”
The trend of assisted baskets would continue throughout the game for the Blue Devils, who assisted 20 of their 31 field goals on the afternoon, including six from Cook, five from Tyler Thornton in just 17 minutes of action, and three apiece from Sulaimon and Curry.
Although it did not show up on the stat sheet, Josh Hairston and Amile Jefferson provided an assist of a different kind for Mason Plumlee, who was forced to the bench after committing two fouls in a 90-second span at the midway point of the first period. Even against a Florida State frontcourt that features three 7-foot centers, including 7-foot-3 freshman Boris Bojanovsky, the 6-foot-8 duo of Hairston and Jefferson helped limit the Seminole frontcourt to just 11 rebounds. Jefferson continued his offensive maturation in the absence of Ryan Kelly as well, with an 11-point effort and a 4-for-4 performance from the field. With a big lead and strong efforts from Hairston and Jefferson, Plumlee played just nine minutes before halftime.
“We would’ve brought [Plumlee] back in if we would’ve started to lose the lead. I’m okay with playing a guy with two fouls,” Krzyzewski said. “But we were able to maintain it so we were able to keep him out, which says a lot for our bench.” Plumlee’s 25 minutes were his second-fewest all season.
“That’s something that I don’t know if we would’ve done earlier in the year,” Plumlee said.
The contest was the first time all season that Plumlee has failed to register double digits in either scoring or rebounding, as he finished with eight points on 4-for-4 shooting and five rebounds. But even as Florida State recovered somewhat from its early shooting woes—finishing the game hitting 18 of its last 35 shots after missing 15 of its first 20 shots—Plumlee’s relative absence from the stat sheet was hardly noticeable given the relentless Duke shooting attack.
The Blue Devils drained 11-of-18 3-pointers and the four non-Plumlee starters all reached double figures. Curry led the effort with a team-high 21 points on 5-of-7 shooting from deep while Sulaimon and Cook combined for 32 points on 6-for-10 shooting from long range.
The Seminoles were as shaky as Duke was stalwart, with 11 turnovers to just nine assists. Taking Florida State out of sync began with stopping Snaer, who Krzyzewski has consistently praised as one of the toughest players in the conference. When the two teams met at Cameron Indoor Stadium last season, Snaer drained a last-second 3-pointer to give the Seminoles the victory.
Sulaimon was tasked with the “huge assignment” of guarding the 6-foot-5 senior and handled the task with aplomb.
“I think that was Rasheed’s best defensive performance of the year, most certainly,” Krzyzewski said.
The kudos for his defense comes just two games after Sulaimon’s offensive exploits carried the Blue Devils to a 20-point win over Maryland last Saturday, and that victory coupled with a pair of road wins this week indicate that Duke may be starting to settle into a new comfort zone after six games—and two losses—without star forward Ryan Kelly.
“Today was a huge confidence booster,” Hairston said. “A lot of people still think we’re really not a good team without Ryan. Obviously we’re not the same team, but we’re still a good team. And so we’re still learning about ourselves every day.”