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Duke men’s basketball pulls away from Florida State in Coach K’s penultimate home game

<p>After a slow start offensively, Paolo Banchero took over down the stretch en route to 17 points.</p>

After a slow start offensively, Paolo Banchero took over down the stretch en route to 17 points.

Are you ready? Are you ready to watch a Duke game in Cameron Indoor Stadium without Mike Krzyzewski prowling the sidelines?

Not many are. And the crowd in Durham for Coach K’s second-to-last home game did not seem to take the moment for granted. A bevy of Blue Devil royalty returned to Cameron Indoor Stadium Saturday evening to pay their respects to the legendary coach and witness No. 9 Duke avenge its loss to Florida State last month.

"It'll be emotional, the last game here," Krzyzewski said. "Today with all the crowd, you want to savor that feeling because you're only going to be able to walk out on the court one more time and have that feeling."

The Blue Devils toyed with the Seminoles in the first half but used a second-half surge to put away Florida State for good, taking Krzyzewski’s penultimate home contest by a whopping 88-70 margin. A who’s who of Duke greats, including Mike Dunleavy, Tyus and Tre Jones, Danny Ferry and Cherokee Parks, bore witness to the win. By the time the night was over, the Blue Devils had extended their winning streak to four.

Duke (23-4, 13-3 in the ACC) took advantage of a depleted Florida State unit. Four of the five Seminole starters from its January win against the Blue Devils were out with injury. John Butler, the lone man still standing, found himself in foul trouble, committing two fouls in the first two minutes.

Nevertheless, Florida State (14-12, 7-9) proved a nuisance early. Every time Duke saw the ball fall through the hoop, the Seminoles responded on the other end. The Blue Devils picked up some momentum after the opening minutes thanks to a sequence of alley-oops slammed home by center Mark Williams. Eventually, back-to-back dunks from Paolo Banchero and Theo John forced Florida State to call timeout early. 

But that timeout seemed to do the trick—the Blue Devils could not pull away for most of the first half.

"In the first half, we felt like we could steal the ball," Krzyzewski said. "We just felt like we could win quicker. That wasn't going to happen."

Early on, Duke found open shots regularly but simply could not convert. Blue Devil shooters were 1-for-8 from beyond the arc to start the game, and the Seminoles jumped on the opportunity to steal away the lead nearly midway through the opening period. Florida State freshman Matthew Cleveland hit a series of floaters and layups while Williams sat on the bench with foul trouble, as the Seminoles took a 17-16 advantage.

The Blue Devils would not be down for long, though. Wendell Moore Jr. pushed the Blue Devils back into the lead with a 3-pointer followed by a nifty reverse layup.

Senior Joey Baker nailed four 3-pointers in the first half, amassing 12 points in just seven minutes of hyper-efficient play. Guard Trevor Keels assisted on a pair of them, part of an eight-point, six-assist effort before intermission. The strong play of Baker and Keels helped the Blue Devils pull away from Florida State to close out the first half, stretching their lead to 11.

"Joey came in and played his butt off," Moore said. "He hit four huge 3-pointers, and not only that, but he was defending."

The second half began with a bang, but not the one you might think of. Moore jumped to intercept an alley-oop pass but crashed to the floor, landing hard on his right arm. But the North Carolina native took it in stride, jumping to his feet like he has with other hard falls this season.

Moore and the rest of the Blue Devils wreaked havoc on the Seminoles throughout the rest of the half. Banchero scored 13 points in the second period to accompany eight rebounds. Keels finished with 13 points and eight assists in only his second start since returning from the injury he suffered in the last game against Florida State.

The second half of Saturday's game looked nothing like Duke's weak second half Tuesday against Wake Forest. The Blue Devils never relinquished the lead, instead leaving the Seminoles in the dust.

"At the time, coach told us, 'Don't let this happen again,'" Keels said. "It was great that we came away and took care of business."

Moore especially played the game of coaches’ dreams, with 16 points, seven assists, five rebounds and six steals on the night. Moore and the Blue Devils rebounded from their early struggles from beyond the arc, finishing the night shooting nearly 40% from downtown.

Saturday’s game marked what was likely Florida State’s final game against Krzyzewski given its dismal performance in ACC play and a raft of injuries. With the Seminoles’ loss, Florida State’s run against Coach K ended with a whimper.

But the greatest thing about Krzyzewski's win was that Blue Devils from Coach K's entire career witnessed it. From Danny Ferry (played at Duke in 1985) to Matthew Hurt (played at Duke in 2021), the crowd served as a testament to the length of Krzyzewski's career. Some more recent players got personal time with the team.

"[Matthew Hurt] is actually staying with me," Moore said. "We made him a little room in the back, so he's comfortable."

Duke next heads to Charlottesville, Va., Wednesday to take on Virginia.


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