In a quick turnaround from the win over North Carolina, No. 7 Duke has held its own in a physical first half against No. 8 Florida State, leading the Seminoles 33-32 Monday night. Here are five observations from an entertaining first half of play in Cameron Indoor Stadium:
1. Relying on the defense early
Although the Blue Devils failed once again to shoot efficiently at the beginning of the game, Duke relied on its always stout defense to avoid falling into an early hole. A defensive-minded starting lineup that included Tre Jones, Jordan Goldwire and Wendell Moore Jr. forced the Seminoles into tough, contested jumpers. Florida State missed its first eight shots of the game before M.J. Walker connected on a fadeaway jumper more than five minutes into the contest.
On just one day of rest after the emotional win over North Carolina, Duke's improved depth looks like it played an important role in not allowing the Seminoles easy looks in the paint. Florida State finished shooting just 12-of-31 from the field in the first frame.
2. Loving the left corner
The Blue Devils looked in good shape early defensively, however, it took a while to get their inconsistent offense rolling. It wasn't until Duke started splashing 3-pointers from the left corner that it got going, as the team erupted for 13 points in a four-minute span. Cassius Stanley kicked things off with a trey off of a nice feed from Moore, and then it was the unlikely Goldwire who used an effective off-ball screen to sink an open jumper. Matthew Hurt buried his first look of the game from deep in the same spot on the floor to cap an impressive spurt from the Blue Devils.
3. Turnover troubles
Turnovers were a big issue in both of Duke's earlier home losses to Stephen F. Austin and Louisville—tonight looks like it could be more of the same. Florida State has forced the Blue Devils into 11 first-half turnovers, nearing their average of just over 13 per contest. With three turnovers thus far, Jones will have to tighten up against the Seminoles' lengthy, athletic guards or we could be in for another thriller in Cameron.
4. Where is Jack White?
The senior captain started Saturday against the Tar Heels, but a 12-minute, scoreless performance in Chapel Hill doesn't look like it's done him any favors. Head coach Mike Krzyzewski went to nine players in the first eight minutes of the game, but chose to leave White on the bench until less than five minutes remained in the half. White has the frame to matchup well against Florida State's size, however, Krzyzewski may opt to stick with the small-ball lineup that won the game against North Carolina.
5. Player of the half: Matthew Hurt
It was a fairly balanced first half for the Blue Devils, with no player scoring more than eight points. The biggest spark came from Hurt, as the freshman knocked down a pair of triples to finally get the Duke offense rolling. His second 3-pointer came on a beautiful step-back jumper after an effective shot fake, and the Rochester, Minn., native showed some defensive potential on a following sequence with the Blue Devils' only block of the half.
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A solid showing from Hurt is a welcomed sign for Duke as he played just six minutes against the Tar Heels, being held scoreless.