This weekend, Duke visits its archrival in a game that could potentially decide the ACC title. While that matchup is already receiving some hype, the seventh-ranked Blue Devils can’t avoid overlooking Tuesday’s opponent.
Led by the dangerous Toney Douglas, No. 24 Florida State looks for its seventh win in nine games as it arrives at Cameron Indoor Stadium on the heels of an upset victory.
With only two regular season games remaining, Duke (24-5, 10-4) is seeking its first conference title since 2005-06. The second-place Blue Devils are one game behind second-ranked North Carolina, and the two powerhouses meet Sunday at Chapel Hill.
Duke didn’t look like it would be playing for the ACC title after dropping back-to-back games in mid-February, but it’s since won four games to stay in the race.
The Blue Devils defeated Virginia Tech 72-65 on Saturday, but it wasn’t easy. With just over 30 seconds remaining, Kyle Singler threw a baseball-style inbound pass to Greg Paulus at the other end of the court for an easy layup that put Duke up 68-63.
“We want to win this league and we needed to get this win,” said John Scheyer, who is averaging 19.0 points during the Blue Devils’ winning streak. “We needed it not only in the league, but going into March, we need wins like this.”
Duke will likely face another tough test against Florida State (22-7, 9-5).
The Blue Devils defeated the Seminoles 66-58 on Jan. 10, but in the last meeting at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Feb. 4, 2007, Florida State won 68-67. It was the Seminoles first win in 16 games at Duke.
The Blue Devils are 15-1 at home this season, with Gerald Henderson is averaging 21.4 points on 58.4 percent shooting in his last six at Cameron.
Henderson had 25 points and five rebounds against the Seminoles earlier this season, while Scheyer had nine points on 1-of-7 shooting.
Duke point guard Nolan Smith, who had 12 points against Florida State in January, is expected to miss his second straight game after sustaining a concussion in the Blue Devils’ 78-67 victory at Maryland on Wednesday.
Although Duke beat Florida State two months ago, the Seminoles have been on a bit of a surge, winning six of their last eight games.
Florida State is coming off Saturday’s 73-66 victory over then-No. 12 Clemson to move closer to its first NCAA tournament bid since 1997-98.
“I’d say we’re in, but we have more games too,” said Douglas, who had 23 points against the Tigers.
Douglas, who has scored 20 or more points in 11 of the Seminoles last 13 games and had 19 the other two times, has been carrying Florida State’s offense. Not an easy job, considering he’s the team’s only legitimate scoring threat and is usually heavily guarded.
“I don’t think there’s any other player in our league faced with that type of scenario,” Seminoles coach Leonard Hamilton said. “The unique and special thing Toney is giving us is tremendous leadership.”
Duke did a good job of frustrating Douglas in the first meeting of the season, holding the ACC player of the year candidate to 18 points on 7-of-23 shooting. Douglas is averaging 15.7 points on 33.3 percent shooting in three career games versus the Blue Devils.
Florida State, tied for third in the ACC with Wake Forest, can finish second for the first time since 1992-93 with a win over Duke and a home victory against Virginia Tech in Sunday’s regular-season finale.