Duke PG Tyler Thornton brings a calm to his team and that has earned him priase from Coach K who called the sophomore a “Duke Basketball player,” which was a testament to his toughness and his being cool under pressure. The Blue Devils face a stiff challenge in a hostile environment against Florida State and we caught up to Thornton to get his thoughts on the game in our latest BDN Video –
Duke looks to build upon the huge win at Clemson when Florida State comes to Cameron Indoor Stadium for a nationally televised game on ESPN. It would take a heck of a game to compete with the last 3 visits to Cameron for the Seminoles. We all remember last year’s March war with Duke holding off Toney Douglas (27 Pts) 84-81. The teams didn’t play in Durham the year before that, but in February 2007 Florida State pulled out a 68-67 slugfest. And the year before that was the best of them all. In February 2006, Duke prevailed in OT 97-96. JJ had 36 and Al Thornton 37 in that epic battle.
Here’s a preview of this season’s Seminole team:
As usual under Leonard Hamilton, FSU is much better defensively than on offense. The Seminoles shoot fairly well on 2-point field goals (53%), but not so well from 3 (34%) or from the free throw line (65%). They are very good at getting offensive rebounds. Ironically, they give up a lot of them too, a trend they share with Duke, Georgia Tech, Clemson, Boston College, and Wake Forest – maybe it’s just an ACC thing to have a bunch of offensive rebounds at both ends. Anyway, the main reason for FSU’s offensive struggles is their proclivity for turning the ball over. With a 25% turnover rate (1 out of every 4 possessions is offensive suicide) they rank #328 out of 347 Division I teams. Only one other BCS conference team, Oregon State, is in the bottom 60 in this stat.
Florida State is one of the top defensive teams in the nation this year. They are #1 in Opponents 2-point field goal percentage (37%) due in large part to their great length and shot-blocking big men. Even though they give up offensive rebounds, opponents have a hard time converting inside. FSU also forces a high number of turnovers, which means the perimeter defenders can be aggressive knowing that the backline of the defense is always there to erase mistakes. If there is a chink in their armor, it may be their 3-point defense. FSU is last in the ACC with opponents’ 3-point percentage in conference games at 43% and they allow quite a few of them.
C- Solomon Alabi (7’1” Redshirt So- 13 ppg, 7 rpg, 3 bpg) is the main reason for the great interior defensive stats for FSU. Although he is still considered a developing player with a bright NBA future, almost all his numbers are better this year than last. For example, he’s improved his field goal percentage from 54% to 59% and, most impressively, his free throw percentage from 68% to 83%. In fact, Alabi has made 25 of his last 28 free throws. Also, he has been able to avoid foul trouble in most games (only 2 games with 4, none with 5). However, he only averages 26 minutes a game, so either he still has some strength/stamina issues or Coach Hamilton is living up to his reputation for over-substituting.
F- Chris Singleton (6’9” So- 11 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 3 apg has been an inconsistent player but has shown flashes lately of the breakout year many predicted (me included). He is very active on defense, averaging 2 blocks and 2 steals a game. Offensively, he has not shot well (43%) and he is the main culprit in the Seminoles’ turnover woes, with 4 per game. The last 3 games kind of sum up Singleton’s season: 22 points in 36 minutes vs. NCSU, 2 points in 36 minuts vs. Va.Tech, and 23 points in 30 minutes vs. Ga.Tech. The fact that FSU won the Va.Tech game shows they don’t have to have a big game from Singleton to win, but Duke in Durham is not Va.Tech in Tallahassee.
G- Devidas Dulkys (6’5” So- 10.5 Pts, 44% 3pt) has moved into the starting lineup and has been the Seminoles’ main outside threat. He has made at least three 3-point field goals in 11 out of 19 games.
G- Derwin Kitchen (6’4” Jr- 8 ppg, 4 apg) is the primary ball handler and a very good defender but, like his team, he has struggled on offense, shooting 41% from the 2 and 22% from 3-point land.
F- Ryan Reid (6’8” Sr- 7 ppg, 4 rpg) is still around, believe it or not, and along with Chas McFarland from Wake is the biggest agitator in the league. He does the dirty work and hustles for offensive rebounds and will probably make the hardest foul in the game.
Bench- Xavier Gibson (6’11” So) gives good size and rebounding. Jordan Demercy (6’7” So) provides good defense from the forward spot. Michael Snaer (6’5” Fr) provides 8 points per game and is the second best 3-point shooter at 37%. Luke Loucks (6’5” So) gives FSU another guard with good size. The main problem with Florida State’s reserves is they are all pretty bad ball handlers. For example, Loucks (backup PG) has 30 turnovers in 356 minutes this year. Jon Scheyer has 29 in 684 minutes.
No rest for these Blue Devils as we can expect another intense physical ACC battle. Of course, Coach K wouldn’t have it any other way. Duke must show they can respond to a big emotional win with another energetic performance. Don’t be surprised if we have another defensive battle with points hard to come by in the half court for both teams. Duke may be due for a breakout shooting game and that would mean bad news for Florida State. Duke needs to get the kind of effort out of the big guys that we did against Wake Forest and neutralize them on the inside. Another key will be for Duke to force the kind of turnovers that they can convert. Anytime you get transition points you don’t have to face that size (#1 average height in NCAA) in the half court.
After a seesaw first half, I see Duke making a big second half run. Projected score: Duke 73, FSU 58