TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - For a few moments, No. 7 Duke looked as if it were about to relive another nightmare against Florida State.
Unlike the Blue Devils' previous two loses to the Seminoles, however, this one had a happy ending.
Down one with 3:46 to play, Duke utilized a 16-2 run-including points from five different players and eight straight free throws-to close out Florida State, 70-57.
After jumping out to an early 17-point first-half advantage, the Blue Devils (14-1, 2-0 in the ACC) saw their lead quickly evaporate behind a 29-point second-half charge from the Seminoles' Toney Douglas and Jason Rich.
With Duke up 54-53, Rich split DeMarcus Nelson and Gerald Henderson at the top of the key and threw up a left-handed layup. The ball bounced around the rim before finally falling into the bucket, capping off a 7-0 run and giving Florida State (12-6, 1-2) its first lead since the game's opening minutes.
With the tomahawk-chopping crowd in a tizzy, Jon Scheyer drove down the right side of the lane before turning around at the foul line and kicking the ball out to Kyle Singler at the top of the arc. Singler drained the wide-open three and gave the Blue Devils a two-point advantage that they would not relinquish.
"That was the biggest shot of the game," Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "There are shots, and there are huge shots-and that was a huge shot."
Following Singler's three, Greg Paulus added a layup and Nelson, who entered the game shooting 62.3 percent from the charity stripe, hit three of four free throws to make it a three-possession game. Nolan Smith and Gerald Henderson also hit free throws to push the Blue Devils' margin of victory to 13.
"That was a big-time game to win," Krzyzewski said. "For a while there it looked like there was no way we were going to win it. Our kids got tough. After they had been the weakest, they got to be the toughest. I don't know how that works, but it worked tonight."
Scheyer carried the team for much of the first period and finished with a game-high 21 points. Ten of his points came during a 1:35 stretch in the first half in which he gave the defense fits with spin moves that led to open shots on several different occasions.
The Seminoles did not help their cause by going almost seven minutes without a basket, shooting 0-for-6 from the field and committing five turnovers. By the 7:37 mark, the game had all the makings of a blowout as Gerald Henderson dunked in a missed 3-point play opportunity by Scheyer to cap off a 16-0 run that gave Duke a 30-13 lead.
"After the first couple minutes, we just went on a roll for eight to 10 minutes that was fantastic," Krzyzewski said. "Scheyer, he blew up and gave us that lead."
The Blue Devils cooled off, however, scoring only four points in the remainder of the period and went into the locker room at halftime with a 34-22 advantage.
Duke's offensive woes continued throughout most of the second half, as the team shot just 11-of-27 from the field.
Rich and Douglas, who combined for just one basket in the opening period, quickly began to pick apart the Blue Devil defense and cut away at Duke's lead. By the time Florida State evened the score at 48 with 9:05 to go, Rich had outscored the Blue Devils by a margin of 16-14 in the half.
Nevertheless, Duke was able to shut down the Seminole guards down the stretch, holding the pair to just two points in the game's last four minutes.
"I was proud of our guys down the stretch," Krzyzewski said. "Every play was a big-time play."
Get The Chronicle straight to your inbox
Signup for our weekly newsletter. Cancel at any time.