'Find my teammates': Duke men's basketball shows unselfish nature en route to victory against Florida State

Wendell Moore Jr., with 16 points, seven assists and six steals, embodied Duke's performance Saturday.
Wendell Moore Jr., with 16 points, seven assists and six steals, embodied Duke's performance Saturday.

Loaded with talent and ranked ninth in the nation, the Blue Devils are no stranger to exceptional individual performances. 

The freshman trio of Paolo Banchero, AJ Griffin and Trevor Keels features highly productive future NBA players, and the experienced excellence of remaining starters Wendell Moore Jr. and Mark Williams allows Duke to overpower opponents with individual skill and isolation dominance. 

But against Florida State, the Blue Devils won in a different way—a special way, one that’s more sustainable than the ways that recent Duke teams have utilized.

Saturday night, Duke proved that winning sustainably doesn’t have to rely on Banchero dominating in isolation or Griffin knocking down nearly 50% of his threes. Head coach Mike Krzyzewski’s squad showed Saturday night that the best teams work together to win—the individual pieces of the puzzle are important, but the differentiating factor between good and great units is how they fit together.

Duke spread the wealth better than it has all season, with six players ending with double-digit points. Early on, Williams owned the interior despite dealing with the 7-foot-2 Tanor Ngom. 

All five starters, including the sophomore center, got to 10 points, but the true surprise came near the end of the first half. That was when senior captain Joey Baker entered the fold, hitting 4-of-5 triples to send the Blue Devils into the break with an 11-point lead.

“Joey saved us in the first half. Joey was attacking then and in the second. But we were playing hard. Not taking anyone for granted. We just thought we could win quicker. And that wasn't going to happen,” Krzyzewski said.

Jeremy Roach handled much of the point guard responsibilities in Keels’ absence, but Keels came full circle Saturday. The 6-foot-5 guard had one of his best performances since he suffered a January calf injury against the very same opponent his team faced Saturday. 

Keels has demonstrated an ability to create his own shots off the dribble, but Saturday, he was a bona fide playmaker, notching eight assists to complement his three makes from beyond the arc. Not only did the Clinton, Md., native generate his own looks—he pushed the ball into the hands of the strong scorers around him.

“[The Seminoles] switch a lot. They play a 60% defense so everybody helps. Just trying to find my teammates,” Keels said.

As Keels went, so did Moore, as the point forward dished out a stellar seven assists of his own. Off the bench, Roach added in five dimes in only seventeen minutes of action. With 25 assists to only 11 turnovers for the night on Duke’s end, efficiency entrenched a 20-point lead roughly midway through the second half.

“I thought we assisted well. 25 assists and some of the passes from Trevor [Keels] were spectacular,” Krzyzewski said. 

“We found out today about the injury to Mills, and my feeling is we are ready to play. In the first half, we felt that we could steal the ball, pressure, and get on them,” Krzyzewski also said regarding the Blue Devils’ approach to the contest. 

That defensive effort was led by Moore, who set the tone on that end and generated extra looks for his teammates with his anticipation and ball skills. The junior’s six steals gave Duke extra possessions, with 15 points coming off Florida State’s 11 turnovers.

Finally, during the middle part of the second half, the potential top pick in the NBA Draft came into the fold. After struggling to put the ball in the basket for the first half and mainly contributing on the boards, Banchero crept up on the competition and kicked it into high gear late in the game. 

The freshman phenom would end up quietly leading all players in scoring with 17 points, sealing the victory for Duke.

“I really thought Paolo had a different gear in the second half,” Krzyzewski said.

In basketball, iconic individual performances will always be remembered. But sometimes, the best way to succeed is with a bunch of big names each doing one of the little things just right, for the greater goal.


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