No moral victories

Plenty of pos­i­tives for Semi­noles after buzzer beater by No. 1 Duke

Orlando Sentinel (Sunday) - - SPORTS SUNDAY - By Chaunte’l Pow­ell Or­lando Sen­tinel

TALLAHASSEE — After a crush­ing 80-78 loss Satur­day to No. 1 Duke on a last-second shot, Florida State coach Leonard Hamil­ton didn’t want to get caught in talk about moral victories.

“Ob­vi­ously they were ex­tremely dis­ap­pointed. And that’s pos­i­tive, be­cause they care about win­ning,” Hamil­ton said of his play­ers’ re­ac­tion to los­ing a thrilling game dur­ing which the two teams of­ten traded leads. “… I think we’re grow­ing and ma­tur­ing in some of those areas. We’ve got to make sure we bounce back. We don’t want to take any moral victories away. We had a chance and we got beat by a team that played a lit­tle bet­ter than we did.”

Still, there were a lot of pos­i­tives the No. 13 Semi­noles (13-3, 1-2 ACC) could take away from the con­test. Mfiondu Kaben­gele was ag­gres­sive and fin­ished with a team-high 24 points and 10 re­bounds. Phil Cofer looked closer to his pre-in­jury form, fin­ish­ing with 21 points, in­clud­ing five 3-point­ers.

The Semi­noles have had dif­fer­ent play­ers step up this sea­son, and Kaben­gele said his mind­set en­ter­ing the Duke game al­lowed him to pro­duce.

“I pre­pared pretty well Chiefs line­backer Ben Nie­mann cel­e­brates a missed field goal by Colts kicker Adam Vi­natieri.

through­out the sea­son. I stay in the gym; I watched a lot of film on Duke. They’re a tal­ented team,” he said. “I be­lieve I had the right mind­set and my goal go­ing into ev­ery game is to just bring en­ergy and what­ever hap­pens, hap­pens. I be­lieve I brought that today and my team­mates fed off it and we just couldn’t ex­e­cute down the stretch. But I’m happy with the en­ergy that we brought.”

FSU re­mained poised down the stretch, re­spond­ing to a 10-0 Duke run in the second half, tak­ing a late lead and over­all mak­ing things dif­fi­cult for the Blue Devils (14-1, 3-0) — with the ex­cep­tion of the fi­nal shot.

Mis­com­mu­ni­ca­tion al­lowed Cam Red­dish to take a wide-open 3-pointer to win the game as time clicked away.

“They hit a back screen, a cou­ple of our guys shifted and Cam came from the cor­ner and hit a good shot,” Kaben­gele said.

Hamil­ton said he wasn’t ex­pect­ing the fi­nal play to be that easy for Duke.

“I didn’t ex­pect them to get the ball at the el­bow. I thought we had that cov­ered,” Hamil­ton said. “I ex­pected them to get it in­bounds, but not a di­rect pass out of bounds to a guy at the el­bow. They did a great job of cre­at­ing some mis­di­rec­tion. We’ve got to go back and look at film and see how he de­liv­ered that pass right on the money.”

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said hav­ing one of his four start­ing fresh­men step up with the game on the line is big for the team mov­ing for­ward.

“He played ag­gres­sively the whole game and the last thing we wanted was him to get the ball,” Krzyzewski said of Red­dish. “I think they were kind of fix­ated on RJ [Bar­rett, who had 32 points] and it al­lowed him to get open and then he knocked it down. And he was fight­ing cramps at least half the second half. Huge game for him, and it’s a story when­ever a kid hits a game-win­ner like that. It’s sto­ry­book.”

The Blue Devils also got by with­out star Zion Williamson, who sat out the en­tire second half after be­ing poked in the eye right be­fore half­time. Krzyzewski said Williamson had been ex­pe­ri­enc­ing dou­ble vi­sion and when it didn’t im­prove, he opted to sit the star the re­main­der of the game.

It left a huge void on the glass after Williamson earned five of­fen­sive re­bounds in the first half. FSU out-re­bounded Duke 17-14 in the second half, but scor­ing droughts through­out pre­vented the Semi­noles from cap­i­tal­iz­ing.

The ’Noles don’t have much time to dwell on the loss as they head to Pitts­burgh Mon­day to take on the 11-5 Pan­thers.

“It hurt all of us, just be­cause we were there the whole time,” Cofer said about the loss. “It hap­pened, we mis­com­mu­ni­cated on de­fense and we have to move on.”

CHAR­LIE NEIBER­GALL/AP

MICHAEL REAVES/GETTY

Duke's RJ Bar­rett shushes the rowdy FSU crowd after the Blue Devils es­caped with an 80-78 vic­tory.

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