2005 was the last time Duke won a senior night game. And the only team besides North Carolina that beat them on said night was staring them right in the face for the entire game. Much like the last match up against Florida State, Duke was in for a physical battle that would come down to who wants it more. Last night, when Greg Paulus, David McClure, and Marty Pocius would step on the floor at Cameron for the last time in a Duke uniform, Duke wanted it more. No matter how bad they might of shot, no matter how bad they might of looked at times, Duke showed tremendous heart and gave the seniors something that they will remember forever.
A much smaller team than Florida State, Duke was finding it difficult to figure out FSU for much of the game. Florida State was the better team for much of the game. Even when Duke would try to make a run, there was a State player who was up to the challenge and kept their team in it. However, the sequence that would end up deciding the game was all about the two stars of each team. With State down, ACC Player of the Year candidate Toney Douglas, took a step back three that was the definition of clutch. Suddenly, Florida State was in control. But like most nights Gerald Henderson simply would not except a loss. He came back down the floor and answered with a three of his own. And on defense, Henderson took a stolen ball the length of the court and made the lay-up and sunk the free throw to make it a another three point play. This sequence for Duke sent fans roaring, and eventually the team would hold on for one of the toughest victories of the season.
The stars for Duke showed up once again and lead this team. Forget the shooting percentages, and look at the production. Gerald Henderson (21 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists), Kyle Singler (20 points, 7 rebounds), and Jon Scheyer (17 points, 1 turnover). Even Elliot Williams couldn’t help but get into the action, and finished with 14 points. The defense was lacking and Florida State had three double figure scorers themselves, but Duke’s “Big Three”, scratch that “Big Four” was on a mission to say farewell to Cameron in style.
The biggest reason why Duke was able to stay close with Florida State and eventually grab the victory was turnovers. Duke has been so good in this stretch with not turning the ball over, and this game was no different. Only 7 turnovers, 1 in the second half was the reason Duke got the win. This team might miss a few shots and might not be able to grab the rebound against bigger teams, but they don’t beat themselves by turning the ball over. And in the end great teams are the one’s who don’t give the game away.
Coach K was once again emotional beyond anything we have seen. Their last time in Cameron, against Wake, he was pleading with the fans and the team to give it all you got and leave it all on the floor. Tonight his emotion drove this team like it has so many times. Senior night was special for all involved. Even with all this class of seniors has had to deal with, last night it was all smiles, hugs, and tears. Duke walks off the floor of Cameron for the final time this season, but looking ahead they are far from done.