For the first time in my four years at Duke, I saw my Blue Devils fall in the hallowed halls of Cameron Indoor Stadium. I’ve been lucky enough to see some incredible games in Cameron during this amazing 45 game win streak (and lucky enough to miss the loss against Carolina in ’09), but this was a tough one to take in. FSU played a brilliant second half, punctuated by the three at the buzzer that silenced the stadium.
In a game that pitted a defensive stalwart against an offensive juggernaut, Duke failed to execute on both sides of the ball. FSU scored on seven of their final eight possessions – including the wide open three pointer from Michael Snaer at the buzzer – while Duke failed to capitalize on key opportunities and make free throws. We can talk about the refs – who had an incredibly absurd stretch of calls and no-calls that admittedly went in Florida State’s favor. We can talk about Austin Rivers’ amazing three pointer that apparently hit the wire that held up the basket – or the ridiculous banked three pointer that cut FSU’s deficit down to six at the end of the first half. We can talk about Florida State shooting 54% in Cameron, with a 50% cut (10-20) from three point land (Xavier Gibson and Okaro White made their first and fourth three pointers of the entire season tonight). But in the end, none of that matters. As much as it hurts to write, we flat out lost tonight because we didn’t bring it for all 40 minutes of the game.
At times, especially in the first half, we looked very, very good. At halftime, it seemed as if Florida State was very lucky to be within six. But FSU came storming out of the gate, erasing the lead in less that five minutes while taking advantage of a truly lackadaisical effort from Duke on the defensive end. The veteran Seminoles made the appropriate adjustments by forcing the ball inside and getting both Mason and Ryan in foul trouble. Of course, Ryan went on an 8-0 run by himself and Dre continued to hit big shots, but when Duke needed to get stops, FSU was able to score with ease. Down the stretch, poor shot selection and failure to make free throws made the difference.
The game of basketball, just like any other sport, is won by the team what exploits their strength while targeting their opponent’s weaknesses. Florida State was able to do that, time and time again, against this Duke team. And while it might hurt like hell for us fans to watch our guys go down on a buzzer beater at home, this game will pay large dividends moving forward.
Last week against Virginia, we learned that this team could really fight. Tonight, our boys fought and fought hard – but came up short. Obviously, defense – both on the perimeter and inside – remains an issue, but this season is not over. These guys have continued to learn and progress every single day, and this game is only going to help that cause.
Yes, Duke lost in Cameron, and it hurts. But we will look back, learn from our mistakes, and move on to the next play.
As always, go Duke.