Duke and Florida State both have had their share of dramatic finishes this season, with one of the more exciting being the Seminoles’ buzzer-beating upset of the Blue Devils last month.
With a share of first place in the ACC on the line Thursday night in Tallahassee, No. 5 Duke and No. 15 Florida State may be in for another wild showdown.
Duke’s Austin Rivers drove the lane and hit a runner with 4.9 seconds remaining to tie the first meeting Jan. 21, but Michael Snaer then drilled a 3-pointer from the wing as the buzzer sounded to give the Seminoles a 76-73 victory and end the Blue Devils’ 45-game winning streak at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
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“When it went in, I didn’t know what to think,” Snaer said after the game. “It was amazing.”
Florida State guard Ian Miller, who scored a team-high 17 points off the bench in Saturday’s 76-62 win at North Carolina State, knows another win over Duke (23-4, 10-2) would go a long way in helping the Seminoles (19-7, 10-2) earn their first regular-season ACC title.
The winner of Thursday’s matchup ties No. 7 North Carolina atop the conference and guarantees a first-round bye in the ACC tournament.
“It’s the next step for an ACC championship,” Miller said. “We can’t be complacent. We have to turn it up a notch.”
Snaer has done that in key moments, also hitting a 3-pointer in the closing seconds to beat Virginia Tech 48-47 last Thursday.
Florida State may also look for Deividas Dulkys to do it again in a big game. The senior guard is averaging 13.4 points in five games against ranked opponents, as opposed to 5.7 in all others.
Three of his six double-digit scoring performances have come against teams in the top five. He scored 12 against the Blue Devils and 32 last month in a win over then-No. 3 North Carolina.
Rivers has been reliable for Duke for most of the season, but especially so against tough competition. The freshman leads the team averaging 15.0 points, but he’s stepped up his game against ranked foes, averaging 18.4 in five contests.
“(Rivers) can do a lot of things,” Miller told Florida State’s official website. “He’s got the pull-up. He can get to the rim. We’re just going to have to play team defense.”
Rivers scored a season-high 29 points and helped rally the Blue Devils from a 20-point deficit at archrival North Carolina on Feb. 8, hitting a 3-pointer at the buzzer to secure a stunning 85-84 win.
Duke faced the same deficit last Thursday at home against N.C. State, but rallied for a 78-73 win behind a season-high 26 points from Seth Curry and 16 from Rivers. Curry scored 18 points and Rivers added 16 as the Blue Devils beat Boston College 75-50 in a more businesslike showing Sunday.
Both teams’ recent victories set up an intriguing matchup. Florida State is 6-0 at home in conference play, while Duke is 6-0 in ACC road games.
In the last meeting in Tallahassee, the Seminoles upset the top-ranked Blue Devils 66-61 on Jan. 12, 2011.
“This team is really deep,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said of Florida State, which has won 10 of 11. “They come at you with nine or ten guys so they are fresh.”
Duke has won four straight since a 78-74 overtime loss to visiting Miami on Feb. 5. Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton said the Blue Devils appear as dangerous as ever – and aren’t likely to be rattled by a hostile crowd.
“They’ve been in these type of games over and over and over again,” Hamilton said.
“They have gotten themselves into a rhythm they seem to be comfortable with,” the coach added. “We’re playing at a high level and they are too.”