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(Photo by Melina Myers-USA TODAY Sports)

Blue Review: A 2021-22 Duke Basketball Recap – Game 17 Florida State

Duke Basketball
Duke Basketball falls to Florida State 79-78 in overtime as turnovers, rebounding and late-game decisions once again stymie the Blue Devils. (Photo by Melina Myers-USA TODAY Sports)

Blue Review: A 2021-22 Duke Basketball Recap – Game 17 vs Florida State

In what has been a hectic month of college basketball – as should be the case in January – Duke Basketball fell victim to the mayhem once again, this time on the road at Florida State, losing 79-78 in overtime. It was a game in which the Blue Devils’ self-inflicted wounds were too much to overcome.

The Seminoles are one of the best teams when playing in front of their home crowd at the Donald L. Tucker Civic Center, winning 28 of their last 29 games. A once struggling Florida State team has now found another gear, picking up a marquee win over the No. 6 team in the country. None of this is to excuse Duke’s issues, more so just to recognize the strength of a quality and well coached opponent.

Before diving into the game, I want to first admit that this recap is coming in a day late because I had other obligations as this game was being played on Tuesday. As a result, I had the unfortunate pleasure of seeing the result in a press conference and waiting for this game to find its way to YouTube on Wednesday.

Now, as has become the case in Duke’s three losses this season, they were handicapped by turnovers (15), offensive rebounding (19 for FSU) and some poor in-game and late-game adjustments – we’ll get to these later. Truthfully, in the grand scheme of basketball, the aforementioned trio of issues are circled on locker room whiteboards across the country before games. Limiting turnovers and offensive boards are critical entities in winning a basketball game, simple as that. The Blue Devils didn’t do those things.

And still, despite all the criticism that can be levied towards players and the coaching staff, Duke lost the game by one point. All three losses to date have been by a combined eight points. Mike Krzyzewski’s team is a couple of possessions away from a potentially undefeated start to conference play. But you’re only as good as your record says you are, and the Blue Devils have some lingering issues to address with March basketball drawing ever so closer.

The last possession

The possession in question:

I dive deeper into Duke’s final possession in overtime on this week’s episode of Jimmer Range – link will be included here when published – so feel free to tune in there for an extended take. The essence of my argument is kind of a Catch-22. On the one hand, Paolo Banchero, your best player and the guy who had 20 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists, should touch the ball in this scenario. He’s too dominant of a player, frankly, to not. However, both Krzyzewski and Wendell Moore Jr. felt confident in the play call and the latter outlined his rationale postgame.

“In that situation, we just wanted to get the best shot possible,” Moore said. “I feel like I had a really good lane to the basket, so I just attacked it.”

VIA Duke Athletics

It is important to mention that Banchero was also the victim of both poor in-game adjustments and a stout Seminole defense, as both enabled the 15-minute second-half shot drought the Seattle native endured.

My argument boils down to this, on the one hand, there’s no reason Banchero shouldn’t have the ball in his hands here, nor is there an explanation for why Coach K has diverted from his star(s) in late game scenarios over the past few years. On the other hand, Moore is your co-captain, second leading scorer and one of your best players – you should trust a guy like that to get you a bucket. It just so happens that the ball didn’t find the nylon on this occasion. So, I understand the outrage on Duke Twitter, but also recognize and understand the decision made by Krzyzewski. It’s a tricky reality, an unfortunate result, but it won’t define the season, and the overreaction from fans is kind of ridiculous.

Trevor Keels’ injury

I won’t clip the video of Keels’ lower-leg injury, but if you want to see it, it’s all over Twitter. The sequence looked quite severe, with the former five-star unable to put any pressure on his leg as he was carried off the court by teammates. The severity of his condition remains in the air, with Krzyzewski unable to really detail anything in his postgame conference, just mentioning that he suspects it’s a calf injury, rather than a knee.

The 6-foot-5 guard had nine points on 3-for-11 shooting before his night was cut short. Keels has been a good two-way guard for the Blue Devils, impressing pundits and fans with his invaluable defense and an offensive playmaking skillset that continues to blossom, despite some sporadic and inefficient moments. The duration of his absence remains in the air, but I’d venture to say he won’t feature against Syracuse on Saturday.

How does Duke get back on track and replace Keels for the time being?

The problems hindering Duke in losses remain the same, so it’s not as if it’s a new issue every night. In some ways, this can be viewed as a positive. Hope will continue to prevail – until it doesn’t – regarding the Blue Devil coaching staff correcting Duke’s turnover margin and rebounding issues in losses. The pair of problems have been talked about ad nauseam by both me and the national media, so it does no good to continue to harp on them. Duke knows there’s an issue and I expect it to be a work in progress, but corrected in the future, nonetheless.

As for the potentially post-Keels reality the Blue Devils find themselves in, those minutes will be filled by Jeremy Roach. It’s a relatively easy plug with the sophomore making a return to the starting lineup. His six assists in the FSU loss serve as an example of what Roach can do as a primary playmaker when Moore is struggling. If he can record anywhere from 4-7 assists in Keels’ absence, I think this Duke Basketball squad can right the ship. However, with Roach regaining a starting spot, it leaves only Joey Baker and Theo John bench pieces with fairly significant minutes as a short bench gets shorter. Both freshman Jaylen Blakes and graduate transfer Bates Jones will likely see extended time as a result.

Ultimately, the ACC gauntlet will prove tough for every team, especially a young Duke Basketball squad. A few more losses will inevitably come – of that, I have no doubt. But it’s too early to hit the panic button, especially with four potential NBA Draft picks still starring for the Blue Devils.


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