TALLAHASSEE, Fla.—There is the good, the bad and the ugly, but Sunday afternoon's game in the Donald L. Tucker Civic Center was all ugly for the 16th-ranked Blue Devils in their 70-57 loss against No. 24 Florida State.
Duke shot a season-low 26.4% from the field to go along with 18 turnovers. Its defense, for the most part, still provided some of the suffocating pressure it has become known for, holding the Seminoles to under 40% from the field and just 25% from 3-point range. However, the Blue Devils found out the hard way that defense only gets you so far.
“I thought Florida State played terrific,” said head coach Kara Lawson. “They really disrupted us offensively. Got us to turn the ball over particularly in the first half...They got to the line 32 times and we just were undisciplined ourselves defensively.”
Last year’s crushing three-point loss at home to the Seminoles was the start of a 1-5 finish to a disappointing season that was once promising for the Blue Devils. Just as they had done with their other conference rivals, such as Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech, Duke was looking to reverse their fortunes from 2022, but instead they became victims of a statement game which likely will not soon be forgotten. The Blue Devils (18-3, 8-2 in the ACC) can only hope that the loss is the only bit of history that repeats itself.
Sunday’s game was decided in the third quarter and Florida State (19-5, 8-3) capitalized on it in the fourth. Shayeann Day-Wilson, who Duke can normally lean on for offensive production, was held scoreless through the first three quarters, only getting her first basket in the final period as she added 14 late points. The Blue Devils’ 19-8 run to close the game brought the deficit down from a game-high 24-point Seminole lead.
Go-to scorers Celeste Taylor, Elizabeth Balogun and Kennedy Brown finished with a combined nine points on 4-for-29 shooting.
“I think all of our players could have played better than they did,” Lawson said. “A lot of it was our opponent, and they forced us to play poorly. And then some of that is that our players have to be ready to push through when they have maybe a bad possession or a bad quarter or bad half.”
The Blue Devils were fortunate to trail by just three entering the second quarter, as the first was riddled with inconsistency on both ends. They started the game with seven straight misses and three straight turnovers that led to a 6-0 start for the Seminoles. Duke managed to lock in, following the Florida State run with its own 8-1 run that started with a Balogun and-one. The Blue Devils started working the paint on both sides of the ball, drawing fouls and rejecting layups; Duke finished the game with 11 blocks. The mistakes crept back in and turnovers on one end became fouls on the other.
The following quarter eerily mirrored those first 10 minutes. First-quarter woes bled into the second, as the Blue Devils missed their first 11 field goals and allowed Florida State to sprint to a quick 7-1 run. However, Duke still controlled the glass, out-rebounding the Seminoles throughout most of the first half. The Blue Devils also maintained solid defense, holding their opponents to just 4-of-13 from the field in the period. This effort kept them at arm's length and it seemed, as long as they maintained tight defense, it was only a matter of time before their shots started falling again.
Once they did, the Blue Devils came storming back. Similar to when they took the lead in the first, it started on the defensive end. They went from simply making it hard for Florida State to make shots, to not even allowing them to attempt any with a flurry of forced turnovers. Six second-quarter turnovers led to transition offense where Duke thrived, resulting in a 9-0 run over 1:43 to tie the game at 22-22.
Unfortunately for the Blue Devils, this was short-lived, and the inconsistency that plagued them during the first quarter reared its ugly head. The Seminoles then went on an 8-0 run to diminish Duke's seemingly effective adjustments and the Blue Devils finished the first half down by eight.
“We have to play at a higher level to give ourselves a chance and then we have to make more of our easy opportunities,” Lawson said. ‘I thought we missed a lot of layups today. And I thought that hurt us when we did get an open shot. We weren't able to make them.”
The Seminoles took a page out of Duke’s book, and the transition success that allowed the Blue Devils to mount a comeback in the second period, is what allowed Florida State to finally start pulling away from their opposition in the third. This was led by the Seminoles' senior guard Sara Bejedi who masterfully ran the floor, finishing with four assists. The 25-5 Florida State run to make the score 47-27 with 3:01 left in the third quarter led to several Blue Devils making ill-advised mistakes, including missing wide-open layups and clumsy turnovers. A key part of the big run, the Seminoles’ Makayla Timpson led the way with a 21-point double-double.
Duke returns home to face a struggling Pittsburgh team Thursday at 6 p.m.
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