Coming off consecutive losses on the road, the Blue Devils desperately needed to get back on track at home with two top-15 teams on the slate to finish the regular season.
And through 20 minutes, they look like they have done just that.
On Senior Night in Cameron Indoor Stadium, No. 17 Duke leads No. 15 Florida State 34-23. Playing his last game in front of the Cameron Crazies, Amile Jefferson has been a force on both ends of the floor for the Blue Devils, connecting on all four of his field goal attempts to post eight points and eight rebounds. The Philadelphia native fueled a 9-2 run that gave Duke a 23-14 edge with 5:37 left in the period and has given the Seminole big men fits on both ends.
Florida State has just 12 points in the paint after racking up 56 in the teams' January matchup when Jefferson was sidelined.
Sparked by a Luke Kennard banked triple, the Blue Devils made that a 34-19 advantage late in the period following a 9-0 run. Kennard and freshmen Frank Jackson and Jayson Tatum have combined for 24 points so far.
Both teams played heavy man-to-man pressure defense early on, and the offenses combined to start just 8-of-24 from the field. The Blue Devils were able to handle the Seminoles’ pressure without turning the ball over much, and were fortunate that Florida State missed several looks inside the paint to keep the game close.
After playing limited minutes in Duke’s loss at Miami Saturday, Jefferson was in the starting lineup and looked more nimble than he had in recent weeks. The graduate student nabbed five rebounds in the game’s first four minutes and helped keep the Seminole frontcourt in check after they dominated the paint during the team’s first meeting. Florida State big men Michael Ojo, Jarquez Smith and Christ Koumandje combined to miss all seven of their shots from the floor and were held scoreless in the half.
It was a surprisingly low-scoring affair from the outset, with the score knotted at 12 more than 11 minutes in. But a pair of free throws from Kennard and a triple from the wing from Tatum—after the freshman picked up a steal on the defensive end—gave the Blue Devils a 17-12 edge.
Back-to-back buckets from Kennard and Jefferson coming out of the under-eight media timeout extended Duke’s lead to 21-14, part of the key 13-5 run that gave the Blue Devils some breathing room.
Here are some observations from the first half:
- Jackson got the nod in the starting lineup ahead of Grayson Allen, just Jackson’s fourth start in ACC play and first since Feb. 4 against Pittsburgh. After struggling against Florida State's physical defense in January, the rookie has looked much more decisive so far, finishing with eight first-half points.
- Allen, who did not play Saturday against Miami, entered the game less than four minutes into the contest and looked a little rusty. He finished the half with no points and a turnover in eight minutes.
- Jefferson recorded the 1,000th point of his Duke career on a up-and-under layup five minutes in. The bucket came on an assist from Kennard, who notched his 1,000th point Saturday at Miami.
- As usual, Florida State is showcasing its extremely deep bench, with 12 different Seminoles seeing action in the first 20 minutes. Duke, on the other hand, played eight players with Allen, Harry Giles and Marques Bolden coming off the bench.
- After shooting a season-worst 3-of-9 from the free throw line against the Hurricanes, the Blue Devils have made 8-of-8 from the charity stripe thus far.
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