TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — While the Northeast region experienced a snowy blizzard Saturday night, J.J. Redick heated up the Deep South in one of the most impressive shooting exhibitions in recent ACC history. Redick hit a career-high eight three-pointers on his way to a season-high 31 points in a dominating 88-56 win for the men’s basketball team (15-0, 5-0 in the ACC) over Florida State (10-9, 2-4).
Relentlessly heckled in the game’s opening moments, the 6-foot-4 junior did not score until the 13:05 mark before gradually deflating the Seminoles’ frenzied screams into mumbled complaints. By halftime Redick had 19 points and five three-pointers to his credit.
“He’s the most phenomenal shooter I’ve ever seen,” a disappointed Florida State head coach Leonard Hamilton said. “It’s almost automatic.”
Duke’s defensive effort was equally effective in the first half. Conceding Florida State’s height advantage, the Blue Devils focused on their perimeter defense in hopes of keeping passes from the post. The strategy worked to near perfection, as the Seminole guards were forced out of their comfort zones and the post players struggled to receive the ball in scoring positions. Duke shot 56.7 percent from the field in the first half while Florida State connected on only 30 percent of its field goal attempts.
With 6:11 remaining in the first half, Daniel Ewing executed the game plan by stealing an Alexander Johnson pass and then skying for a two-handed slam dunk to give Duke a 31-14 lead.
“I thought the defense was the difference in the game,” Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “We felt the best way to help Shelden [Williams]—because Johnson is really good in the post—[was] to exert even more pressure on top. If you’re fighting that pressure, sometimes you don’t see a guy open if he is open inside.”
Offensively, Redick scored the Blue Devils’ last six points of the first half on two three-pointers that proved especially debilitating for Florida State’s morale. With 2:08 remaining in the half, Redick began to attempt a long-distance jumper with Andrew Wilson directly in his face. Just barely avoiding a traveling violation, the co-captain discontinued his shot, took a dribble to gather himself and nailed a trifecta.
Then, as the first half neared its conclusion, Redick again juked Wilson with a head-fake, took a dribble and nailed a three-pointer as the buzzer rang, giving the Blue Devils a 44-26 halftime lead. Redick waved to the crowd as he exited to the locker room.
“He hit some big-time threes from far out. That’s demoralizing when a team’s trying to come back,” Krzyzewski said. “Even that play at the end of the half… we had some plays that would knock back any team. We’re just fortunate we had a number of them on offense.”
The first-half defensive effort carried over into the second, as Duke neutralized the three stars of the Seminoles’ recent upset over No. 3 Wake Forest throughout the game. Von Wafer, Al Thorton and Todd Galloway each scored at least 17 fewer points than they did in Florida State’s win over the Demon Deacons.
Following the outside shooting barrage of the first half, Duke maintained its offensive efficiency by mixing up its shot selection. After attempting just two shots in the opening half, Williams scored on the Blue Devils’ first three possessions of the second.
“Shelden, really for the year has been our best player,” Krzyzewski said. “He’s been there every night.”
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Shavlik Randolph continued to show strides after returning a week ago from a bout with mononucleosis, shooting 5-for-5 from the field.
“I’m learning how to manage myself better,” Randolph said. “I can’t wait another two weeks to a month to get it all back. There are going to be times when I’m sucking wind, but I have to be able to do things well.”
Krzyzewski also said he was pleased with the “unsung hero” performances of Saturday’s game, as Sean Dockery finished with eight points, four assists and two steals, and freshman DeMarcus Nelson scored six points and played aggressive defense.
“We played really well tonight,” Krzyzewski said. “That’s the best we’ve played in two halves.”
Duke remains one of three unbeaten teams in the nation this season.... Redick hit a career-high eight three-pointers.... Randolph scored in double digits for the first time since returning.... Ewing now has 1,339 career points, placing him 30th on Duke’s all-time points list... The Blue Devils have held all of their opponents to sub-.500 shooting percentage from the field this season.... Duke is the only undefeated team in ACC conference play.... Duke’s 15-0 start is the best since 1991-92, when the Blue Devils began the season 17-0.... Redick now has 250 career three-pointers and moved to fourth on Duke’s all-time list.