Duke looks to avoid 'Noles trap

Twice this season, Florida State has crept up on Duke's schedule at a time when the Blue Devils could be susceptible to falling into an opponent's trap.

During the season's first matchup Feb. 4 in Durham, Duke-coming off a tough win over Boston College and perhaps looking ahead to its game against North Carolina three days later-barely escaped the Seminoles in overtime, 97-96.

With only two games left in the regular season-including Saturday's marquee rematch with the Tar Heels-and the ACC title already locked up, tonight's matchup against Florida State would appear to be another chance for No. 1 Duke (27-1, 14-0 in the ACC) to falter.

The Seminoles (17-8, 7-7) currently sit squarely on the bubble for the NCAA Tournament, badly needing a win in tonight's 7 p.m. game in Tallahassee to gain consideration for an at-large bid to the big dance. A victory over the Blue Devils would give Florida State the statement win that could sway the members of the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee.

"It's a tremendous challenge but an unbelievable opportunity," said Florida State head coach Leonard Hamilton of playing Duke. "We have to earn the respect of people who make decisions."

Hamilton's squad certainly did not help its case Saturday, losing to Virginia Tech, 72-61. The defeat mirrored much of Florida State's season, in which the Seminoles have ended up on the losing end of a number of close games.

Before the tight loss in Cameron Indoor Stadium, Florida State lost in overtime to Miami, by one point to North Carolina and by three to Boston College. Those three nailbiters occurred within a span of 15 days in January.

Hamilton said his team has played, "almost well enough, but that doesn't count in the win column."

"In our minds we're one of the top 64 teams in the country," he said. "We still have not captivated the imagination of those people who vote."

But just because the game is a must-win for Florida State does not mean Duke is taking the matchup lightly. With a win tonight and another Saturday night, the Blue Devils would become the first team since Duke's 1999 squad to go undefeated in the ACC regular season.

Given the hard-fought nature of the teams' first tilt, Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski's squad is keenly aware of how dangerous the Seminoles are.

"They've had an outstanding year, but they're a few points away from an amazing year," Krzyzewski said. "It's a good game for us because it'll make us better going into the postseason."

J.J. Redick poured in 36 points last time the two teams met. In the past two games, however, Redick has struggled from the field, scoring a season-low 11 points against Temple over the weekend.

Krzyzewski said Redick's two-game slump is not because of physical tiring, but rather has been caused by the mental drain of setting records on what has seemed like an every-game basis.

"I think J.J. suffered the effects of the emotional effects of the three-point record, the Duke record, the ACC record," Krzyzewski said of Redick, who is averaging a team-high 36.9 minutes per game. "You can get emotionally drained. But you can come back from that. It was good to see other guys step up."

Hamilton said he did not plan on using the "junk defenses," including ones similar to Temple head coach John Cheney's box-and-one, that have been employed recently against Redick. He said Duke's other options are too dangerous to lay off of in a game the Seminoles have to win.

"You don't have the luxury of doing anything other than giving every one of those players the utmost respect," Hamilton said. "The good news is we still have more opportunities to play, the bad news is we're playing against great teams."


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