Another road game, another one-sided loss for No. 7 Duke.
Unable to keep Florida State from getting easy looks at the basket and unable to protect the ball themselves during a game-changing stretch of the second half, the Blue Devils saw the No. 9 Seminoles run away for an 88-72 ACC win Tuesday night.
Junior guard Xavier Rathan-Mayes scored 18 of his 21 points in the second half as Florida State, which led by four at halftime, pulled away for the easy win.
“He made some really tough shots on the perimeter,” Duke acting head coach Jeff Capel said. “We were more concerned with him, and all their guys, with how much they were in the paint. We have to do a better job there.”
The Seminoles (16-1, 4-0 in the ACC) shot 57.6 percent in the second half and finished at 53 percent for the game. Dwayne Bacon and Terance Mann each added 13 points while Jonathan Isaac had 11 for Florida State.
“They have guys who can really penetrate the ball,” Duke sophomore guard Luke Kennard said. “We just had a tough time containing them at times. It starts on defense for us. If we get stops on the defensive end, I can confidently say that we are going to be a great defensive team by the end of the year. It’s got to start on the defensive end for us.”
Duke (14-3, 2-2 in ACC) played its first game without injured senior forward Amile Jefferson (bruised foot). The Blue Devils played for the second time without Mike Krzyzewski coaching them as he stayed in Durham recovering from back surgery.
But it was the second time they’ve been manhandled on the road. The Blue Devils lost 89-75 at Virginia Tech in their ACC opener on Dec. 31.
“We just need to bring our own energy and come together more,” Duke guard Grayson Allen said. “I don’t think we shared the ball well tonight. We can’t do that. We need to stick to what we do best on offense.”
The Blue Devils had more turnovers (16) than assists (10) and shot just 41.1 percent.
Kennard (23 points) and Jayson Tatum (21 points) were Duke’s most effective players on offense. Allen, playing point guard and committed to distributing the ball, had four assists before he took his first shot. He finished with nine points and five assists.
“We played into their pressure. They are a very active team. They come at you in waves. They play a lot of guys. That allows them to be very aggressive on defense. They always have a lot of energy. I think that’s the strength of their team is defense and how they come at you, and unfortunately we played into that.”
A sold-out Donald L. Tucker Center crowd of 11,675 enjoyed watching the Seminoles clamp down and frustrate Duke in the second half.
After trailing by four points at halftime, Duke took a 50-48 lead on Kennard’s basket in the lane with 15:02 to play.
But the Blue Devils went scoreless on their next six possessions, allowing Florida State to score 10 points in a row to lead 58-50. That was the start of a stretch in which Duke turned the ball over eight times in 14 possessions.
“We had that little spurt, they turned the ball over a few times and we were able to pull away,” Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton said.
Sloppy play on offense hurt the Blue Devils. Tatum turned the ball over twice, once on a traveling call in transition and another time on a poor pass as he tried to get the ball to freshman Harry Giles inside.
“We’ve got to credit them,” Tatum said. “They are a great team, and they were great tonight. We just made mistakes. I know for myself, when I got tired I started making dumb passes and turning the ball over. That’s something I need to work on, getting in better shape and when I do get tired, not making dumb decisions.”
Giles missed a dunk off an inbounds lob pass and also threw the ball away while trying to get the ball inside to Tatum.
Meanwhile, the Seminoles were effective in transition, converting the mistakes into easy baskets. Florida State’s Michael Ojo scored inside with 12:18 left to give Florida State its largest lead at that time — 58-50 with 12:18 to play.
Matt Jones halted the FSU run with a 3-pointer in front of the Duke bench, and 6-10 Chase Jeter hit a free throw.
But Duke’s problems protecting the ball allowed FSU to extend its lead to double digits.
Tatum threw the ball away again. Jeter was called for three seconds in the lane.
On the other end, the Seminoles kept driving to the basket or pounding it inside for high percentage shots.
Rathan-Mayes tossed a lob pass to Isaac for a slam dunk and, after Jeter’s three-second violation, drove for a layup in a half-court set.
When Rathan-Mayes drove for a layup and added a free throw after being fouled by Jones, the Seminoles were up 72-59 with 7:49 to play.
Duke was unable to climb back in the game.
“We understood who the shooters were and the drivers were,” Capel said. “What makes it hard to prepare for them is how good they are. No matter what you do, you can’t simulate that in practice. You can’t simulate their athleticism, their length, how much pressure they constantly put on you and the wave of guys they bring in.”