Duke technically experienced a road environment while beating Wake Forest, 87-65, last Tuesday night.
The presence of thousands of Blue Devils fans in attendance in Winston-Salem, along with the sad state of the Demon Deacons program that curbed Wake fans’ enthusiasm, made it far from a hostile environment.
That will change on Saturday when No. 1 Duke plays No. 13 Florida State at the Tucker Center.
Duke’s few veterans have told the team’s four freshmen starters to expect things to be more difficult against the Seminoles.
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“It was good for us to play another ACC opponent in their venue,” Duke junior forward Javin DeLaurier said. “But at the same time we told our guys that’s not really what the ACC is all about. When we go down there on Saturday, it’s probably going to be a lot more hostile. I think we were pretty fortunate we had a good showing of Duke blue in the stands on Tuesday. It’s going to be a bit of a different animal.”
The Seminoles (13-2, 1-1 in ACC) made the NCAA tournament’s elite eight last season. That’s also as far as Duke advanced. Leonard Hamilton is coaching in his 17th season at FSU. Only Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski has coached more consecutive seasons in the ACC among active coaches..
The Blue Devils (13-1, 2-0 in ACC) carry an eight-game winning streak into the game. This is Duke’s fifth game against a team ranked in the top 25 at game time. The Blue Devils have won three of their first four.
Here are some items to watch as the Seminoles meet the Blue Devils:
DeLaurier’s quiet streak
As a self-described rural Southerner, DeLaurier is a firm believer in superstitions. He’d rather it not be discussed that he’s approaching an ACC record that’s stood for 30 years.
The 6-10 forward from Shipman, Va., has made his last 18 consecutive shots covering six games. The league record for consecutive field goal attempts made is held by Duke’s Alaa Abdelnaby, who made 20 shots in a row during the 1988-89 season.
DeLaurier’s last miss came with 7:44 remaining in Duke’s 113-49 blasting of Stetson on Dec. 1 at Cameron Indoor Stadium. He made all five shots four nights later when the Blue Devils beat Hartford 84-54 and has kept his streak alive over five more games.
Any mention of the streak has DeLaurier scrambling to knock on wood while shaking his head “No!”
DeLaurier is a perfect 5-for-5 in ACC play, making two shots last Saturday against Clemson and three more on Tuesday night at Wake Forest. He’s made 30 of 34 shots this season (88 percent).
Blocked shots and steals
Duke’s ability to block shots and steal the basketball have allowed it overwhelm most of its opponents.
That may be harder to achieve against the Seminoles.
The Blue Devils blocked 13 shots at Wake Forest, a Joel Coliseum record and the most ever by a Wake Forest opponent. According to Ken Pomeroy’s statistics, Duke has blocked 19.5 percent of its opponent’s shots. That’s about one of every five shots and is good for No. 2 in the country.
With 6-10 Mfiondu Kabengele and 7-4 Christ Koumadje, Florida State boasts a tall, strong front line. Opponents have blocked only 8.1 percent of FSU’s shots this season.
Duke is also adept at steals, ending the opposition’s possession via a steal 14.7 percent of the team. That’s No. 1 in the nation, according to KenPom.
FSU’s offensive possessions have ended in a steal only 7.8 percent of time, good for 70th in the country.
So if Duke continues to collect blocks and steals in this one, it’s a good sign the Blue Devils are on their way to victory.
Duke’s perimeter shooting
The Blue Devils’ overall shooting percentage (49.8 percent) is better than Florida State’s 46 percent. Duke has made 59.8 percent of its two-point shot attempts, which is No. 3 in the country.
Zion Williamson and R.J. Barrett’s ability to get to the rim and score is elite. As mentioned earlier, DeLaurier is also doing his part.
It’s the jump shooting, particularly beyond the 3-point line, that’s been a struggle for the Blue Devils. Duke has made 32.2 percent of its 3-pointers. That’s 245th in the country.
Duke made 7 of 23 3-pointers against Wake Forest on Tuesday night. But the Blue Devils only attempted eight of those shots in the second half when they used shots in the lane to pull away from the Demon Deacons.
Florida State’s tall front line could mean Duke has to resort to jump shooting, which could be a problem for the Blue Devils. It’s up to point guard Tre Jones, along with Williamson and Barrett, to help Duke get open shots inside.