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No. 6 Duke hopes bigs continue strong play vs. Florida State

Duke has discovered the joys of scoring close to the basket and it has proven quite beneficial the past couple of games.

Maintaining that production in the lane will come with a different challenge Tuesday night when the No. 6 Blue Devils visit Florida State for an Atlantic Coast Conference game at Tallahassee, Fla.

The Seminoles boast a huge front line that frequently proves bothersome to opponents.

Duke racked up a season-high 58 points in the paint in defeating North Carolina State on Saturday. That included a season-high nine dunks.

"Our big guys were terrific," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "Mark (Williams) almost had a triple-double. Theo (John) really contributed well in the first half when we got a little lead. We got 29 points, 13 rebounds and nine blocks from our bigs. Let's get that every game."

Those numbers are complemented by versatile Paolo Banchero, the freshman who collects his points a variety of ways.

Duke (14-2, 4-1 ACC) will be venturing out of its home state for the first time since November.

Awaiting will be the Seminoles (10-5, 4-2), who have won three games in a row. Each of those outcomes has come by a single-digit margin.

"We've played enough games that we were a little more relaxed mentally and emotionally," Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton said. "I think we're just showing a little growth and maturity. That's what you like to see from your kids this time of year."

Duke has played four games since coming off a COVID-related pause. So, Krzyzewski senses there have been strides made.

"I know we're not in the physical shape that we will be in, but we're getting there," he said.

A lineup change has put freshman AJ Griffin in the starting lineup the past two games.

"We're changing a little of that identity while getting better," Krzyzewski said.

It also means Trevor Keels has shifted to handle more duties associated with point guard. The freshman delivered a season-best nine assists against NC State.

"We put a lot on him, and maybe we can take a little off so he's not playing so tired," Krzyzewski said. "In the last six minutes of the game, I thought he was our best player."

Florida State's lineup could be impacted by the absence of Malik Osborne. He missed Saturday's win at Syracuse because of an ankle injury, and Hamilton said he doubts Osborne will be ready for the visit from Duke.

Osborne is the top rebounder and second-leading scorer for the Seminoles, whose reserves outscored Syracuse's bench players by a combined 29-4. That type of depth could be critical against Duke.

Helping fill in for Osborne was Harrison Prieto, who logged 15 minutes after not getting off the bench in the first two games of the winning streak.

"For him to come in and have that impact on the game was great," teammate RayQuan Evans said. "I truly believe that he changed the game for us. Immediately when he came in, the tempo changed and everything."

--Field Level Media

Updated January 17, 2022

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