Blue Devils Pull Away Late to Outlast Seminoles
Jones guides decisive 10-2 run as Duke returns to ACC Championship
GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Point guard Alexis Jones contributed two assists, a steal and two field goals in the decisive stretch Saturday as top-seeded Duke broke from the second and final tie of the game and defeated fourth seed Florida State 72-64 in the ACC Tournament semifinals.
The Seminoles battled back after surrendering the game’s first nine points, and drew even for the first time on Yashira Delgado’s free throws with 5:18 left. The Seminoles made it 58-58 when Leonor Rodriguez hit a 3-point field goal with 4:40 to play, but Jones then began to take over.
Her no-look assist to Richa Jackson made it 62-58, and her steal and breakaway layup at the 2:08 mark highlighted an eventual 10-2 run that advanced the Blue Devils (29-2) to the championship game for the 11th time in the past 14 years and diminished memories of a quarterfinal exit in 2012.
“It feels good,” said Tricia Liston, who joined Haley Peters with game-highs of 17 points. “We proved we wanted to be here and wanted to win. Tournament play is fun, and going to the championship game is always exciting.”
Florida State (22-9) fell to 0-3 in ACC Tournament semifinals but is in position for a good seed in the NCAA tournament thanks to a diverse skill set that restored its place in the national discussion.
“The season has been phenomenal,” guard Alexa Deluzio said. “It’s a privilege to play with this team I have. There’s a chemistry here. I’m looking forward to hopefully making a good run.”
A tournament with several statistical anomalies continued in the day’s first semifinal, in which Florida State was outrebounded 28-10 through the first 20 minutes but down only 34-31 at halftime.
“We didn’t tell them,” coach Sue Semrau said of the discrepancy on the glass.
The Seminoles made up for that difference with turnover margin. They committed only one giveaway in the first 23 minutes of play and would not go away.
The Blue Devils, for their part, were solid in most phases of play and were resilient in the aftermath of the Seminoles’ game-tying run. They scored on five consecutive possessions after the 55-all draw, and Jones had a hand in four of them.
The overriding key, Liston said, was the Devils’ ability to make themselves available to benefit from Jones’ excellent vision.
“A big part of it is getting them to turn their heads and then sliding to where they can’t see you,” she said.
Jones finished with 12 points and seven assists on the day, and one of her moments didn’t specifically produce a statistic. With Florida State trying to foul her, she dribbled 10 key seconds off the clock in the final minute.
Duke’s also withstood a sequence in which the Seminoles collected four offensive rebounds but never got a decent look.
“Florida State is an excellent team,” Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie said. “They have a lot of players we had to slow down, and we did that at critical junctures, which was great.”