Halftime: Florida State 41, Duke 37

TALLAHASSEE, Fla.Defense and foul trouble were two primary areas of concern for the Blue Devils playing their first game without graduate student Amile Jefferson.

Both have plagued Duke in the first half, but the Blue Devils are still locked in a tight battle in their first top 10 road game of the year.

With Jefferson out with a right-foot bone bruise, No. 7 Duke trails No. 9 Florida State 41-37 at the Donald L. Tucker Civic Center. The Seminoles have outscored the Blue Devils 26-16 in the paint and been relentless taking the ball to the basket, forcing four Duke players to each pick up two fouls.

But the Blue Devils have also found success taking the ball to the basket so far in the physical, back-and-forth contest. After struggling to score against Boston College Saturday, sophomore Luke Kennard has returned to form to lead all Blue Devils with 13 points on 4-of-8 shooting. Freshman Jayson Tatum added 10 points, and junior Grayson Allen had another strong period facilitating with four assists.

The Seminoles started strong by hitting their first two shots, a 3-pointer and a pair of free throws to jump out to an early 10-4 lead. Florida State made it an emphasis to attack the Blue Devils inside early on, which prompted Duke to bring sophomore forward Chase Jeter off the bench less than three minutes into the game to bolster its front line.

Both Jeter and starting big man Harry Giles picked up two quick fouls trying to protect the rim. 

The Blue Devils quickly responded to the Seminoles' first punch, though, going on an 8-3 run to trim the deficit to 13-12 by the 15-minute mark. Tatum scored four quick points before Kennard registered his first points with a 3-pointer from the left wing.

But as was the case in the second half of Saturday’s meeting against Boston College, the Blue Devils' transition defense has been the team's primary weakness. 

The Seminoles frequently pushed the ball up the court for easy lay-ups to go up 20-14. Although Duke answered with a 5-0 spurt and took its first lead with about nine minutes left in the half, Florida State responded with a 10-0 run highlighted by two 3-pointers from reserve PJ Savoy. 

Seminole head coach Leonard Hamilton took advantage of his team's depth, playing 12 men in the opening 20 minutes as the home team fed off the crowd's energy.

As they did throughout the half, however, the Blue Devils responded yet again led by Allen and Kennard to trim the deficit before the end of the period. 

Here are some observations from the first half:

  • With Jefferson out, the Blue Devils went with a starting five of senior Matt Jones, Allen, Kennard, Tatum and Bolden. Jones came off the bench in Duke’s previous two games. Jones had a nice offensive half with seven points and one 3-pointer.
  • Tuesday’s contest marks Allen’s first road game since returning from a one-game suspension. Florida State fans have heckled him with signs and a flurry of boos to let him know about his past incidents tripping opposing players.
  • In addition to Jeter’s and Giles' combined four fouls, freshman Marques Bolden picked up a quick foul in four minutes. Bolden has struggled to defend the pick-and-roll and has no points and rebounds so far.
  • After scoring 15 points in each of Duke’s last two contests, Frank Jackson has gone cold, missing all three of his shots against an aggressive Florida State defense. 
  • The Seminoles crashed the offensive glass to the tune of seven offensive rebounds and nine second-chance points.

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