TALLAHASSEE, Florida—There’s the good, the bad, and the ugly, but Sunday afternoon’s game at the Donald L. Tucker Civic Center was anything but ugly for the 16th-placed Blue Devils in their 70-57 loss to 24th State Florida.
Duke blasted a season-low 26.4% from the field to go along with 18 turnovers. His defense, for the most part, still provided some of the stifling pressure it has become known for, keeping the Seminoles under 40% from the field and just 25% from 3-point range. However, the Blue Devils have found out the hard way that defense will only get you so far.
“I thought Florida State played great,” Lawson said. “They really bothered us offensively. We turned the ball around, especially in the first half… They got on the line 32 times and we were just undisciplined defensively.”
Last year’s crushing three-point loss at home to the Seminoles was the start of a 5-1 finish in a disappointing season that once held promise for the Blue Devils. Just as they had with their other conference rivals like Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech, Duke wanted to reverse their fortunes starting in 2022, but instead they fell victim to a statement game that likely won’t be forgotten anytime soon. The Blue Devils (18-3, 8-2 in ACC) can only hope that defeat is the only piece of history to be repeated.
Sunday’s game was decided in the third quarter and Florida State (19-5, 8-3) took advantage in the fourth. Shayeann Day-Wilson, who Duke usually leans on offense, stayed scoreless for the first three quarters and only got her first basket in the last third when she added 14 late points. The Blue Devils’ 19-8 run to close out the game brought the deficit from a game-high 24-point Seminole lead.
Go-to scorers Celeste Taylor, Elizabeth Balogun and Kennedy Brown finished the tournament with nine points total in 4-for-29 shooting.
“I think all of our players could have played better,” said head coach Kara Lawson. “A lot of that was our opponent and they forced us to play badly. It also means that our players have to be ready to assert themselves when they might have poor possession or a bad quarter or half.”
The Blue Devils were lucky to lose just three in the second quarter as the first was riddled with inconsistencies at both ends. They started the game with seven straight misses and three straight turnovers, leading to a 6-0 start for the Seminoles. Duke managed to latch on after the Florida State run with an 8-1 run of his own that started with a balogun and one. The Blue Devils began working the color on both sides of the ball, drawing fouls and rejecting layups; Duke finished the game with 11 blocks. The mistakes crept in again and turnovers on one side became fouls on the other.
The quarter that followed eerily mirrored those first 10 minutes. The troubles of the first quarter spilled over into the second as the Blue Devils missed their first 11 field goals, allowing Florida State to sprint to a quick 7-1 run. However, Duke still controlled the glass and bounced off the Seminoles for most of the first half. The Blue Devils also maintained solid defense, keeping their opponents off the field just 4 out of 13 during that period. That effort kept them at a distance and it seemed as long as they maintained a tight defense it was only a matter of time before their shots came again.
When they did, the Blue Devils charged back. Similar to the lead in the first game, it started on the defensive. They just made it hard for the state of Florida to take shots and didn’t even allow them to attempt a flurry of forced turnovers. Six turnovers in the second quarter led to a transition offense in which Duke thrived, leading to a 9-0 run over 1:43 to hold the game at 22:22.
Unfortunately for the Blue Devils, that was short-lived and the inconsistency that plagued them in the first quarter reared its ugly head. The Seminoles then went on an 8-0 run to lessen Duke’s seemingly effective adjustments and the Blue Devils finished the first half eight behind.
“We have to play at a higher level to give ourselves a chance and then we have to make more of our easy chances,” Lawson said. “I thought we missed a lot of layups today. And I thought that hurt us when we got an open shot. We couldn’t make them.”
The Seminoles took a page out of Duke’s book, and the transitional success that allowed the Blue Devils to stage a comeback in the second period allowed Florida State to finally break away from their opposition in the third. This was led by Seminoles senior guard Sara Bejedi, who ran masterfully around the floor and finished with four assists. Florida State’s 25-5 run to a 47-27, 3-01 third quarter lead to several Blue Devils making rash mistakes, including lack of wide-open layups and awkward turnovers. A key part of the big run, the Seminoles’ Makayla Timpson led with a 21-point double-double.
Duke returns home Thursday at 6 p.m. to take on a struggling Pittsburgh team
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