After Florida State’s Michael Snaer hit his game-winning 3-pointer, Austin Rivers crumpled onto the Cameron Indoor Stadium court. Seconds earlier, it looked like he’d hit the shot that would send Saturday’s game between the Seminoles and the Blue Devils into overtime.
Instead, Snaer’s shot ended Duke’s 45-game home winning streak and left Rivers feeling worse for wear.
As the drama of the game subsides, here are three things to take from the Blue Devils’ loss:
1. Duke turned to Austin Rivers when it needed a basket
Trailing Florida State by two points, Duke called timeout with 18.2 seconds remaining and set up an isolation play for Rivers.
Part of that may have been because Deividas Dulkys was guarding Rivers, and Duke likely didn’t want to attack Michael Snaer, whose length poses problems.
Whatever the reason, Rivers was the guy who got the ball. And the Blue Devils’ freshman delivered, getting into the lane and making a layup to tie the score with 4.9 seconds remaining. Given the up-and-down nature of Rivers’ freshman season, it has to be encouraging for the coaches that he rose to the moment and delivered.
“Austin did a good job, did a really good job,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “That bucket he got right at the end – it’s something I don’t know if he would have scored three weeks ago because he had to really be determined to get in there and make the decision as to whether to shoot it – which was a good decision – or kick it for a potential 3 and a winning shot.
“That’s what we set up. We got something good. We tied it, and they hit a shot at the buzzer.”
2. Duke’s defense is still a work in progress
There were a couple of times in Saturday’s game when the Blue Devils seemed on the verge of putting some distance between them and the Seminoles.
Austin Rivers made a 3-pointer toward the end of the first half that would have put the Blue Devils up 12, but it was waved off because the ball had hit the shot clock. Florida State then came down and hit a desperation 3-pointer at the end of the half to cut Duke’s lead to six points at halftime.
In the second half, the Blue Devils took an eight-point lead after a Ryan Kelly 3-pointer midway through the period, and then a 4-point advantage after Andre Dawkins made a 3-pointer in the corner with a little more than 3 minutes left.
Each time, Florida State found a way to score and get back in the game. The Seminoles shot 66.7 percent from the floor in the second half.
"We felt like we could've really stretched it out if we were a little sharper on offense and made some stops on defense," Kelly said.
A lot has been said and written about the Blue Devils’ defense this season.
While Krzyzewski wasn’t unhappy with the way his team defended Snaer’s 3-pointer at the end of the game, Duke still struggled to come up with stops when strong defense would have allowed the Blue Devils to stretch their lead. As has been the case for much of the season, Duke seemed to struggle with rotations, especially.
Judging by Saturday’s effort, the defensive issues show no signs of abating.
3. Does the race for the ACC regular season go through Tallahassee?
Caulton Tudor wrote about this in today’s paper, but after Saturday’s win, Florida State looks poised to contend for the ACC title.
The Seminoles beat North Carolina, Maryland and Duke in a seven-day stretch and doesn’t face UNC again this year. Its remaining game against the Blue Devils is at home. While FSU is far from a certain bet, it seems like it has as strong a chance as Duke and UNC to earn to win the conference's regular season.