Key Three: Duke basketball vs Florida State

No. 15 Duke hosts Florida State Thursday at 7 p.m. at Cameron Indoor Stadium. The Blue Devils survived their toughest stretch of the season with wins against Louisville, Virginia and North Carolina before a recent loss to the Cardinals. Here are three keys to the game: 

Contain the Seminoles' sensational backcourt 

With a deep backcourt comprised of freshmen Dwayne Bacon and Malik Beasley as well as sophomore Xavier Rathan-Mayes and senior Devon Bookert, Florida State’s top four scorers handle the ball for much of the game and combine for nearly 70 percent of their team’s total scoring offense. But despite the group's explosiveness, the Seminoles sit at just 6-9 in conference play—good for 11th place in the ACC. Florida State enters the game tied for fourth in the ACC in total scoring offense at 78 points per game and shoots near 34 percent from beyond the arc, which could give a vulnerable Duke defense fits if the Seminoles get hot early in Thursday's game. 

Back in early January, Florida State showed its ability to score as they put up 90 points in a home loss to North Carolina and notched 85 points nine days later on the road at N.C. State. Given Duke’s short rotation, expect Seminoles' head coach Leonard Hamilton to try to exploit the Blue Devils' lack of depth, rotating his guards throughout the evening and allowing them to control the offense. 

Take care of the basketball

If a team has any hope of winning a game, it needs to have the ball in its hands. Duke did a poor job limiting its turnovers Saturday afternoon against Louisville as it committed 18 miscues in the defeat. In comparison, the Blue Devils had only given the ball away 17 times combined in their previous two wins against North Carolina and Virginia. 

On average, Florida State forces its opponents into almost 14 turnovers per contest and utilizes a deep rotation with sometimes as many as 10 players. Having seen the success the Cardinals had with a full-court press, expect the Seminoles to bring a similar type of pressure into Durham in hopes of disrupting the flow of Duke's offense. If the Blue Devils hope to get back to their winning ways, they will need to limit the giveaways that have hurt them in the past.

Share the burden

In their last two games, the Blue Devils have been about as short-handed as any team can afford to be. But the team continues to hang in with some of the nation's best because of its fight and ability to make winning plays.

Fortunately for head coach Mike Krzyzewski, Duke will be getting back Thornton and guard Matt Jones for Thursday's home contest. Without the duo for parts of the game Saturday, the Blue Devils had just four healthy rotation players in addition to freshman forward Chase Jeter. Grayson Allen, Luke Kennard, Marshall Plumlee and Brandon Ingram each logged over 36 minutes of on-court time—something that will make for a tired group near the end of conference play and deeper in March. 

Given that Kryzyewski has utilized each of his six rotation players for such significant minutes this season, it is clear that each plays an important individual role for the team. For Duke to emerge victorious Thursday, it will need a solid team effort from each and every contributor. 

Mitchell Gladstone | Sports Managing Editor

Twitter: @mpgladstone13

A junior from just outside Philadelphia, Mitchell is probably reminding you how the Eagles won the Super Bowl this year and that the Phillies are definitely on the rebound. Outside of The Chronicle, he majors in Economics, minors in Statistics and is working toward the PJMS certificate, in addition to playing trombone in the Duke University Marching Band. And if you're getting him a sandwich with beef and cheese outside the state of Pennsylvania, you best not call it a "Philly cheesesteak." 


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