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Five things for Duke men's basketball's matchup against Florida State

Freshman guard Trevor Keels struggled in Duke's last game against Wake Forest, but he was previously 14-of-20 from the field in the two contests leading up to that.
Freshman guard Trevor Keels struggled in Duke's last game against Wake Forest, but he was previously 14-of-20 from the field in the two contests leading up to that.

Duke returns this Saturday at Cameron Indoor Stadium to host Florida State for the second time following its heartbreaking overtime loss to the Seminoles in January. Here are five things to know before this weekend’s crucial ACC clash.

Mark Attack

Duke’s midweek shootout against Wake Forest came down to the final two possessions: a last-second hurl by the Demon Deacons that cannoned off the glass, the rim and then out and a play 0.4 seconds earlier orchestrated by big man Mark Williams. Paolo Banchero’s mazy drive produced a shot that just bounced out and, after a lengthy video review, the referee’s basket interference call was reversed and Mark Williams’ put-back slam cemented his team’s 23rd consecutive home win against Wake Forest.

The 7-foot sophomore center has started every game for head coach Mike Krzyzewski and has rewarded his selection with 10.6 points and three blocks per game. When Duke (22-4, 12-3 ACC) needed a clutch play against the Demon Deacons, Williams was the guy, and when it needed a reliable scorer, he pulled up with 16. The Blue Devils lacked consistent big-man output last season and now that they have it they have exploded to marquee wins and one of the best frontcourts in the nation. Williams is a key member of that duo and engineered one of Cameron Indoor Stadium’s most dramatic recent memories, and should his 2022 renaissance continue against Florida State (14-11, 7-8 ACC), the Seminoles will have a daunting task ahead of them.

Electric Evans

If Caleb Mills was Florida State’s biggest threat in the reverse fixture at home, Rayquan Evans may be it this time. The Billings, Mont., native exploded for 28 points in the Seminoles’ win against Clemson on 7-of-13 shooting from the field and a 12-of-13 mark from the line. Evans has put on his best season in a maroon and gold shirt to date with 8.4 points per game compared to his 5.1 last year and was a rare bright spot in the heavy defeat against North Carolina with 13 points and four assists to his name. And all that is without even mentioning his bucket that sent the last clash between Duke and Florida State into extra time.

Mills’ hot form carried him to an immense performance against Duke in January, and Evans is entering this clash on arguably hotter form than his teammate did. He’s a reliable shooter, consistent from the line and accounted for over a third of his team’s points in its most recent game. He’s a difference maker, albeit a somewhat unglamorous one, and may be Florida State’s biggest hope in a game that will no doubt be testing and important for both sides. 

Trouble in Tallahassee

Last time out, Florida State entered its clash with Duke on the back of four wins and extended that streak to six after its overtime victory. Since then, it’s lost six of its last eight games by a combined 66 points and its momentum has been swiftly snuffed out.

The Seminoles gave the Blue Devils a loss at home in January behind a raucous home crowd and a heroic performance by Caleb Mills with 18 points. The crowd will most definitely be raucous Saturday—this time for Duke—and it’s unclear if Mills will torment Duke the same way he did in the last outing after he dropped a goose egg in his team’s 20 point defeat against North Carolina. The ACC has been full of surprises this season, not least with the overtime upset in Tallahassee, but Florida State is in danger of turning an unremarkable season into a potentially disastrous one if its concerning losing streak should continue.

Concerns about K calmed

Such as it was in January, Krzyzewski was absent from the second half against Wake Forest due to “not feeling well” per official team communications. Associate head coach Jon Scheyer assumed Krzyzewski’s post on the sidelines and oversaw wins in both games, including the aforementioned hectic final possession Tuesday. Encouragingly for Blue Devil fans, he at least remained in the locker room for the rest of the half. More encouragingly, Krzyzewski said he is feeling much better and associate head coach Chris Carrawell said he will be good for Saturday's game. 

No shade to Scheyer, who’s stepped in admirably a number of times this season and given the Duke faithful a glimpse of what’s to come when he takes the reins next season, but it’s great to know that Krzyzewski will be healthy and present for his final date with Florida State.

Back for revenge

The loss to the Seminoles in January was a painful one for Blue Devil fans. Banchero didn’t touch the ball in the final Duke drive despite leading both teams in scoring and Wendell Moore Jr.’s two attempts to win the game at the buzzer fell just short. It marked the team’s second loss in four games and second consecutive to a team from the Sunshine State, calling seriously into question the Blue Devils’ dominance over a weak ACC and whether it had the materials to put close games away.

Saturday’s game is a chance at redemption. A win would bolster Duke’s conference lead just ahead of high-flying Notre Dame and give it a much needed confidence boost following the home heartbreaker against Virginia, surprisingly contentious game against Boston College in Massachusetts and instant-classic win over Wake Forest. It’s also, most likely, Krzyzewski’s last game ever against the Seminoles–a game in which he, his team and surely its fans are desperate to come out on top.


Andrew Long | Blue Zone editor

Andrew Long is a Trinity sophomore and Blue Zone editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.

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