No. 17 Duke went into its holiday break with a lengthy to-do list.
The Blue Devils had numerous areas to sort out in advance of returning from a 10-day layoff to face visiting Florida State in an Atlantic Coast Conference game Saturday afternoon in Durham, N.C.
“We have time now to regroup and address the things we need to do better and obviously there’s a lot of them,” Duke coach Jon Scheyer said.
Duke (10-3, 1-1 ACC) hasn’t played since falling Dec. 20 at Wake Forest, marking the first setback to an unranked team since Scheyer became coach.
Florida State (4-10, 2-1) has been stronger in conference play than across the board overall. The Seminoles have won three of their last four games, but they’re 0-6 away from home (0-2 on the road, 0-4 in neutral settings).
“I think we’re kind of growing up a little bit,” Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton said.
With just one game in a three-week period, the Blue Devils need to make sure their extra practice time benefits them on game days.
“That wasn’t necessarily by plan if it wasn’t just how it worked out this year with the way our schedule was,” Scheyer said. “I think it’s a great chance to really look at everything and go back to the drawing board.”
Florida State has been trying to sort through a list of shortcomings throughout the season, but the Seminoles might be getting it together.
The trio of Matthew Cleveland, Caleb Mills and Cameron Corhen accounted for all except 18 of the team’s points in a 73-72 victory against Notre Dame in the team’s most recent game on Dec. 21.
“This is who we are this year,” Hamilton said. “We accept it and we’re going to continue to keep working hard. I love our attitude. I like the vibe. I like the encouragement the guys are giving each other.”
One of the next steps, Hamilton said, could be getting Baba Miller back in the rotation.
Without freshmen Dereck Lively II and Dariq Whitehead because of illness, Duke was outrebounded and outscored on free throws by Wake Forest. That duo should be back in action for the Florida State game.
Rebounding remains a focus for the Blue Devils.
“It’s toughness and it’s effort,” center Ryan Young said. “It’s not much else that goes into rebounding and we know that we take pride in that being a strength of ours.”
The recovery will need to come on several levels. Freshman Kyle Filipowski had just nine points at Wake Forest in his first game without recording a double-figure total. Instead, reserve Jaylen Blakes had 17 points to mark the first time in his career the sophomore led the Blue Devils in scoring.
“Offensively things come and go, but defense has to be a thing that remains stable for us across the board no matter how we’re playing, how we’re shooting the ball, our defense can’t waver,” Young said.
The available personnel led to Duke having different player combinations on the court, something that could ultimately be a plus for the Blue Devils.
“We have to grow and we just have to keep going,” Scheyer said. “There’s a sense of urgency. In the ACC, you have to win these games. You have to come back and win against Florida State.”
–Field Level Media