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February 23, 2012

Hot shooting propels No. 5 Duke to 74-66 win

As time dwindled and Florida State's opportunity closed rapidly, Michael Snaer heaved a shot from the same spot on the wing that made him famous against Duke a month ago.

This time, there was no magic.

With conference standings and national rankings making this FSU's biggest home game in two decades, hopes of a statement victory halted as Snaer's last-ditch attempt fell well short with 46 seconds to play. Instead, Duke would fight its way out of a raucous environment with a 74-66 win at the Donald L. Tucker Center on Thursday night.

"We feel honored to have won that game," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "(Florida State) played hard to put themselves in a position to win, but we made a couple of plays and we won."

Snaer's miss was symbolic; it was the FSU misfires and a host of hot Duke shooting that carried the night. The Blue Devils netted 13 of 28 three-point attempts and led the contest for more than 38 minutes. The Seminoles (19-7, 10-3 ACC) clawed to within three points on three separate occasions in the final 8:30, but Duke (25-4, 11-2 ACC), a battle-tested bunch that is 7-0 on the road in the ACC this season, always had answers to stave off the charge.

"I thought we fought back several times, we were always digging and trying to get over that hill, and whenever they had an opportunity to get a good look from the perimeter they made us pay, and that's what great teams will do," FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said. "That's a team playing to its strength."

Having little trouble penetrating into the lane and kicking out passes against Florida State's defense, the action created open looks for Blue Devil shooters all night. First, it was guard Andre Dawkins, who hit five three-pointers in the first half en route to 18 points by halftime. Dawkins would lead Duke with 22 points. The Blue Devils would net six more three's in the second half including a pair of long-distance daggers that pushed three-point leads into safer six-point cushions down the stretch.

"They got a few bounces, got it out to shooters and made some big-time shots," said Snaer, who led the team with 18 points on 8-of-18 shooting. "That's not our defense at all."

When FSU's Bernard James completed a three-point play to cut it to 61-58 with 4:17 to play, Duke's Seth Curry answered right back with one of those three's 19 seconds later. The Seminoles would never get within a possession again.

"They are one of the best three-point shooting teams in the country and they have kids who are tremendously skilled getting into the lane," Hamilton said. "We allowed them to do what they do best, knock down three's, and it was very difficult for us to get over the hump."

Florida State, which held its only lead of the game at 13-12, trailed by as many as 13 in the second half. FSU couldn't find its stroke, shooting just 39.7 percent from the field and 4 of 15 from behind the arc.

For the Seminoles, it will also prove difficult climbing back into the ACC regular-season race. With the loss, FSU loses the driver's seat for top seed in the ACC Tournament, falling a game behind the Blue Devils and UNC in the conference standings. Not only will the Seminoles likely need a 3-0 end to league play - at Miami, at UVA and Clemson - but will also need both Duke and Carolina to tack on losses somewhere.

A statement victory on a national stage slipped through Florida State's fingers on Thursday night, Hamilton wasn't letting the result change his approach.

"I think it's one game, we lost one game, and we have three more to go." Hamilton said. "I don't think anyone expected us to be here in the first place. So I think we're moving our program forward, we're making progress, we got beat by an outstanding basketball team.



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