Wednesday , Mar , 01 , 2006 C.Y. Ellis

Closing in on perfection, top-ranked Duke takes on Florida State

=== Closing in on perfection, top-ranked Duke takes on Florida State ===

(Sports Network) – The top-ranked Duke Blue Devils are unbeaten in ACC play,
and they will have to knock off Florida State on the road this evening to
keep the perfect league mark intact. The only regular season game
remaining on the schedule for Duke is this Saturday’s clash with rival
North Carolina at Cameron Indoor Stadium. The Blue Devils have recorded 10
straight wins since their only loss of the season, a road setback against
Georgetown. They were most recently in action on Saturday when they recorded
a 74-66 decision over Temple. As for Florida State, it is attempting to
reach the 18-win mark for just the second time in the last eight years.
On Saturday, the Seminoles dropped a 72-61 decision to Virginia Tech on the
road, and that loss halted a modest two-game winning streak. FSU is a solid
12-2 at home this season, and the last five home games have resulted in
victory. Duke owns a 25-4 lead in the all-time series with Florida State,
including a thrilling 97-96 overtime victory over the Seminoles last month.

Duke standout guard J.J. Redick is considered by many fans and analysts to be
the front-runner for National Player of the Year honors, but the senior didn’t
help his chances against Temple. Redick finished with only 11 points in 40
minutes, well below his season average. Fortunately, Shelden Williams came
through with 23 points and 12 rebounds against the Owls, who also got 13
points from Greg Paulus and 10 from Josh McRoberts. Duke earned a 44-33
rebounding advantage and a dominant 25-4 edge in points from the foul line,
the two most obvious reasons for the win. Overall this season, Redick is
posting 28.0 ppg on 49.7 percent shooting from the floor, including 43.4
percent from behind the arc. Williams is often overshadowed by his teammate,
but the standout forward is racking up 18.8 ppg and 10.1 rpg, while shooting
58.8 percent from the field. Also a senior, Williams has blocked 102 shots and
should be considered one of the premier frontcourt performers in the nation.

Sure, Florida State doesn’t have a star player such as Redick on its roster,
but there are some talented performers in the lineup. Al Thornton may be the
best of the bunch, as he is scoring 16.4 ppg on the strength of his 54.6
percent shooting from the floor. Alexander Johnson, who has connected on 53.8
percent of his field goal attempts, adds 12.5 ppg and a team-high 7.1 rpg to
the mix, while Jason Rich adds 10.3 ppg. The Seminoles are netting 78.2 ppg,
while surrendering 69.2 ppg to their opponents. In the loss to Virginia Tech,
Johnson posted 15 points and nine rebounds, while Thornton added 13 points.
Florida State shot just 4-of-14 from three-point range, an obvious
contributing factor in the loss.

Go with the Blue Devils tonight, as they should be able to pull out a hard-
fought victory on the road. An upset wouldn’t be shocking, however, as the
‘Noles almost knocked off Duke on the road in the first meeting this season.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Duke 76, Florida State 69