The Blue Devils are wrapping up the year with a good taste in their mouths.
No. 17 Duke defeated Florida State 86-67 in Cameron Indoor Stadium Saturday to remain undefeated at home this season. The Blue Devils were led by graduate center Ryan Young, who marked a Duke career-high with 20 points. Freshman forward Dariq Whitehead also recorded a career-high with 16 points. Moreover, sophomore guard Jaylen Blakes continued his scoring excellence with 17 points in his first career start for Duke.
“It was a good win for us and I’m really proud of the response that we had,” said head coach Jon Scheyer after the game. “I thought everybody that played stepped up and made some big-time plays in key moments.”
After a back-and-forth affair for the first nine minutes of the contest, Duke (11-3, 2-1 in the ACC) went on a 10-0 run to make the score 24-13 with 8:04 left in the half, capped off by a Blakes three assisted by freshman forward Mark Mitchell. This was the turning point of the game for Duke, as the defensive intensity heated up. It was difficult for the Seminoles (4-11, 2-2) to score in the latter part of the first half, as they only shot 36% from the field and committed eight first-half turnovers.
The final few minutes of the first half marked a great performance by the Blue Devils on both sides of the floor. Young scored six straight points for the Blue Devils, and fellow graduate transfer Jacob Grandison knocked down a big triple assisted by Young with 1:41 remaining in the half.
“[Grandison] is so good at moving off the ball,” said Young. “It makes it easy for me in the post to pass it right back to him … especially when you score a few in the paint and you know that there will be some emphasis on you.”
Duke held Florida State scoreless in the final 2:07 as the Blue Devils extended their lead to 42-25 and a deafening crowd in Cameron Indoor aided the momentum going into the locker room.
The Seminoles punched back in the opening frame of the second half, going on a 10-5 run. Freshman forward Cameron Corhen and redshirt junior guard Caleb Mills scored four points apiece in that span.
Duke’s response to this run was a focus on what has been a large part of its identity all season: defensive intensity. Florida State committed two turnovers on the following four possessions and was held scoreless for three minutes. As a result, the Blue Devils expanded their lead to 51-35 with 13:46 remaining in the contest.
“I really thought our defense was back to where we needed to be,” said Scheyer.
However, Florida State did not go away quietly. An issue for the Blue Devils in the second half was fouling, as the Seminoles were in the bonus from the 14-minute mark. In addition, junior guard Darin Green Jr. was a large part of the Florida State offense in the second period, scoring seven straight Seminole points and forcing head coach Jon Scheyer to call a timeout with 10:03 left in the game and Duke’s lead cut to 60-49.
Nevertheless, Duke was able to weather this storm, and once again Young proved to be crucial, responding with a putback and two free throws. In a fitting shot, Blakes hit a 3-pointer with 4:54 in the contest, making the score 76-56 and putting the exclamation point on the Blue Devils’ victory.
Blakes’ scoring production was key for Duke throughout the contest, coming off of his best game all season in Duke’s loss against Wake Forest.
“[Blakes’] energy, his confidence, and his defense have been rock solid for us,” said Scheyer. “He took advantage of the opportunity so I’m really proud of what he's done.”
Duke started off sluggishly on the offensive end, turning it over on the first possession of the game and missing its first three shots. However, a block by freshman center Dereck Lively II on a Matthew Cleveland layup with 18:02 left in the first half was a momentum shift, as Blakes ignited the Blue Devil offense with five straight points.
Young and Blakes were the key playmakers offensively with a combined 37 points. Young was a force on the boards as well, with 12 rebounds, five of which came on the offensive end.
“Ryan Young obviously had a big-time night, not missing a field goal, not missing a free throw,” said Scheyer. “... You feel like when a shot is taken, he is going to come up with the ball.”
Rebounding has been a key advantage for the Blue Devils all season, as they rank second in the conference in rebounding margin and in combined team rebounds. Duke recorded double-digit offensive rebounds in the contest and doubled the Seminoles in that category.
“Defense and rebounding are the two points of emphasis that have to remain constant for our team,” said Young. “Those have to be something that we hang our hat on and I’m glad that we bounced back the way we did.”
The Blue Devils had a balanced scoring attack, outscoring the Seminoles in bench points 46-8. This demonstrated the depth of the Blue Devil lineup, as even on a day when the typical leading scorers for Duke did not score at their typical production levels, other players were able to step up.
“We've used our depth as a strength and I don't see that changing,” said Scheyer.
Next for the Blue Devils is a Wednesday contest against N.C State in Raleigh.
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Ranjan Jindal is a Trinity sophomore and an assistant Blue Zone editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.