Duke men’s basketball pulls away from Florida State in Coach K’s penultimate home game

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Are you ready? Are you ready to watch a Duke game at Cameron Indoor Stadium without Mike Krzyzewski lurking on the sidelines?

Not many are. And the crowd in Durham for Coach K’s penultimate home game didn’t seem to take the moment for granted. A host of Blue Devil royalty returned to Cameron Indoor Stadium on Saturday night to pay their respects to the legendary coach and watch No. 9 Duke avenge their loss to Florida State last month.

“It will be emotional, the last game here,” Krzyzewski said. “Today, with the whole crowd, you want to savor that feeling because you can only step onto the pitch once and feel that feeling.”

The Blue Devils toyed with the Seminoles in the first half, but used a second-half surge to put Florida State away for good, taking Krzyzewski’s penultimate home game by a huge margin. from 88-70. A who’s who of Duke greats including Mike Dunleavy, Tyus and Tre Jones, Danny Ferry and Cherokee Parks testified to the victory. By the end of the night, the Blue Devils had extended their winning streak to four.

Duke (23-4, 13-3 in the ACC) took advantage of a depleted Florida State unit. Four of Seminole’s five starters in their January win over the Blue Devils were injured. John Butler, the only man still standing, found himself at fault, committing two fouls in the first two minutes.

Nonetheless, Florida State (14-12, 7-9) proved a nuisance early on. Every time Duke saw the ball fall through the hoop, the Seminoles responded on the other end. The Blue Devils gained momentum after the opening minutes thanks to an alley-oops streak slammed home by center Mark Williams. Eventually, back-to-back dunks from Paolo Banchero and Theo John forced Florida State to call the timeout early.

But that time out seemed to do the trick – the Blue Devils couldn’t pull out for most of the first half.

“In the first half we felt like we could steal the ball,” Krzyzewski said. “We just felt like we could win faster. That wasn’t going to happen.”

Early on, Duke was consistently finding open shots but just couldn’t convert. The Blue Devil shooters were 1 for 8 from beyond the arc to start the game, and the Seminoles jumped at the chance to steal the lead almost midway through the opening period. Florida State freshman Matthew Cleveland hit a series of floaters and layups as Williams sat on the bench with foul trouble as the Seminoles took a 17-point lead -16.

However, the Blue Devils would not be down for long. Wendell Moore Jr. held the Blue Devils back in the lead with a 3-pointer followed by a nifty reverse layup.

Senior Joey Baker made four 3-pointers in the first half, amassing 12 points in just seven minutes of hyper-efficient play. Guard Trevor Keels assisted on two of them, part of an eight-point, six-assist effort before intermission. Solid play from Baker and Keels helped the Blue Devils pull away from Florida State to close out the first half, extending their lead to 11.

“Joey came in and played his butt,” Moore said. “He hit four huge 3-pointers, and not only that, but he was defending.”

The second half started with a bang, but not the one you might think. Moore jumped up to intercept a go-oop pass but crashed to the ground, landing hard on his right arm. But the North Carolina native took it in stride, jumping to his feet as he has done with other hard falls this season.

Moore and the rest of the Blue Devils wreaked havoc on the Seminoles for the remainder of the half. Banchero scored 13 points in the second period to go along with eight rebounds. Keels finished with 13 points and eight assists in just his second start since returning from the injury he suffered last game against Florida State.

The second half of Saturday’s game was nothing like Duke’s weak second half on Tuesday against Wake Forest. The Blue Devils never gave up the lead, instead leaving the Seminoles in the dust.

“At the time, the coach told us, ‘Don’t let this happen again,'” Keels said. “It was great that we got away and took care of business.”

Moore mostly played the coaches dream game, with 16 points, seven assists, five rebounds and six steals on the night. Moore and the Blue Devils bounced back from their early struggles beyond the arc, finishing the night shooting nearly 40% from downtown.

Saturday’s game marked what was likely Florida State’s last game against Krzyzewski given his dismal performance in ACC play and a string of injuries. With the Seminoles losing, Florida State’s run against Coach K ended in a whimper.

But the greatest thing about Krzyzewski’s victory is that the Blue Devils of Coach K’s entire career have witnessed it. From Danny Ferry (played at Duke in 1985) to Matthew Hurt (played at Duke in 2021), the crowd has testified to the length of Krzyzewski’s career. Some newer players have had personal time with the team.

“[Matthew Hurt] is actually with me,” Moore said. “We made him a little room in the back, so he’s comfortable.”

Duke then travels to Charlottesville, Va. on Wednesday to face Virginia.

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