Duke was hoping for another shot at its biggest rival in the championship game of the ACC tournament. Instead, the ninth-ranked Blue Devils had better be prepared for pesky No. 22 Florida State.
The third-seeded Blue Devils look for a record-tying 17th ACC tournament title Sunday when they face the fourth-seeded Seminoles at the Georgia Dome.
Even before Duke (27-6) beat Maryland 67-61 in Saturday’s semifinals, it knew a third meeting with top-ranked North Carolina would not happen. Florida State (25-8) upset the Tar Heels 73-70 in the day’s first semifinal to reach the title game for the first time.
Though Duke would have liked to avenge a pair of regular-season losses to rival North Carolina, it must shift its attention to the talented Seminoles as it tries to equal the Tar Heels for the most ACC tournament championships.
“You have to be careful what you wish for,” said Duke guard Jon Scheyer, who had 22 points Saturday. “Obviously, we’d like another shot at Carolina. … It will be tough against Florida State.
“We just played Florida State so we know how good of a team they are.”
Though the Blue Devils have won three in a row over the Seminoles, they haven’t all been easy victories.
Then-No. 2 Duke held the Seminoles to 31 percent shooting, but needed an early second-half run for a 66-58 road win on Jan. 10.
Florida State shot 50 percent and led by two points in the final three minutes at Cameron Indoor Stadium on March 3, but couldn’t hold on as Gerald Henderson helped Duke to an 84-81 victory.
The Blue Devils junior had 21 points and 10 rebounds in the teams’ most recent contest, and scored 25 at Tallahassee in January.
Henderson had only eight points Saturday, but Duke got 14 points and 11 rebounds from sophomore Kyle Singler and used a 12-2 second-half run to overtake the Terrapins.
Duke overcame a 36.4-percent shooting effort by holding Maryland to 39.7 percent from the field, one day after limiting Boston College to 38.3 in a 66-65 quarterfinal victory.
“Duke usually makes you pay if you don’t make the shots you’re supposed to make,” Maryland coach Gary Williams said.
With a potential No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament on the line, the Blue Devils seek their first ACC title since 2006 and fourth as a No. 3 seed.
“We’re excited about playing for the ACC Championship, and we know that will be a difficult game,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said.
Trying to contain Seminoles All-America candidate Toney Douglas will be a priority for the Blue Devils. The senior guard is averaging 21.1 points and had 27 and seven assists at Duke earlier this month.
Douglas, who grew up 15 miles from the Georgia Dome and is the younger brother of Atlanta Falcons receiver Harry Douglas, scored 27 Saturday against the Tar Heels including the go-ahead free throws.
“He has supreme confidence, and we have supreme confidence in him that if we get him into position, then something good is going to happen,” Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton said of Douglas, who had 25 points in a 64-62 quarterfinal win over Georgia Tech on Friday.
Florida State has shot 28-for-57 (49.1 percent) in each of its two tournament games and hopes that continues as it tries to become the first No. 4 seed to win the tournament since North Carolina in 1989.
The Seminoles have held their last three opponents below 38 percent from the field.
“We’ve come a long way,” Douglas said. “But we’re still hungry. We’re never satisfied.”