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DURHAM — Two dramatic finishes, two clutch performances.
In just 48 hours, Tre Jones has gone from little brother of Duke icon Tyus Jones — a star on the 2015 NCAA title team — to his own Blue Devils iconic stature. He’s at least getting there until the season ends with or without a national championship.
Two nights after Jones led an epic comeback win Saturday night at North Carolina, the sophomore point guard drove his team on two levels to beat Florida State 70-65 on Monday night at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
At the start of the game, he gained blessings from the Cameron Crazies. They held up a two-page spread in the Duke Chronicle, the school’s student newspaper, printed with bold letters: “TRE STONES.”
In Monday’s game, Jones’ first influence was driving the Blue Devils to avoid an emotional letdown from beating their Tobacco Road rival in overtime. Next, Jones had to life Duke to muster enough fortitude to rise above Florida State’s physical defense. The Seminoles kept a body on Jones.
“I personally think they were trying to wear me out throughout the game,” Jones said. “I was trying to do a good job of maintaining my composure. I knew it’d be a long game and I was trying to save something for the end.”
The No. 7-ranked Blue Devils (21-3, 11-2 ACC) broke a tie for second place with No. 8 Florida State (20-4, 10-3 ACC), remaining one game back of No. 5 Louisville (21-3, 12-1 ACC), which defeated Duke on Jan. 18 at Cameron.
The Blue Devils again won with balanced scoring, marking the 14th time in 24 games at least four players have gone for double figures. In all, 10 played and eight scored.
Jones finished with 13 points and six assists; Jordan Goldwire matched his career-high 13 points with 5 of 5 from the field and 3 of 3 from beyond the arc; Matthew Hurt scored 12 off the bench; and Vernon Carey — on an otherwise off night for him — posted his 12th double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
Florida State also displayed depth with three players in double figures, nine scored and 11 seeing the court. Trent Forrest, whom Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski labeled an “NBA guard,” scored 18 points. Malik Osborne added 14 and Devin Vassell 11.
But where the depth mattered the most was Duke’s ability to have Jones, the primary point guard, switch off and on responsibilities with Goldwire, a junior that has developed into a consistent ACC player handling point duties in his third year of college ball.
Goldwire isn’t as smooth Jones offensively, but he’s every bit as tenacious on defense. That’s where Coach K utilized him most when he flt Jones was spending too much energy defending Forrest, a 6-foot-5, 210-pound senior point guard with two inches and 25 pounds on Jones.
“Switching Goldwire to Forrest was a key because Forrest is a big-time player,” Krzyzewski said. “He can defend, he can get by you and he’s a veteran. He and Tre were going back and forth and that was wearing Tre out. We needed him on offense so we switched Goldwire on him and it helped. We did that with (UNC point guard) Cole Anthony in the last game in Chapel Hill. That helped us there. Having those two guys being able to have each other’s back is big.”
Tre Jones and Goldwire amount to Duke’s 2020 version of Tyus Jones and Quinn Cook, interchangeable point guards that gave the 2015 national champs flexibility. Another comparison Tre likes goes back to when he was an eighth grader and Tyus a senior at Apple Valley High in Minnesota. They liked watching how UConn interchangeable point guards Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright led the Huskies to the 2014 national title.
The Florida State game opened with Duke following the Miami model that gave the Seminoles fits in the first half on Saturday night in Tallahassee. Miami was driving the lane and threatening an upset, trailing only 50-47 at halftime, before FSU won comfortably, 99-81.
The Blue Devils opened an 11-2 lead to start the game. Duke’s first three baskets were off drives — a Jones, layup, two free throws from Carey after he was fouled down low and Cassius Stanley drive.
The Blue Devils then began to drive and kick out the ball for 3-point attempts. Stanley and Goldwire hit back-to-back 3s from the left corner. After Joey Baker penetrated and hit Alex O’Connell for a 3-pointer for the 21-11 lead with 10:46 left in the first half, Florida State called timeout.
The Seminoles began to clog the middle better while at the same getting more hands on the ball. Florida State ultimately forced 21 turnovers for the night. The only higher total was Duke’s overtime loss to Stephen F. Austin. Forrest had eight steals.
“I think we started to speed up a little bit,” Goldwire said. “We weren’t really looking at where we going. That’s something we have focused on — catching and facing before we make our move. We had to stop, but we were able to settle down and keep our poise.”
Duke was trailing 57-55 with 7:30 to play in the game when three straight drives turned the tide. The 6-0 run on a basket inside by Carey, a drive by Jones and a fastbreak reverse layup from Moore with a body on him accounted for a 61-57 lead with 4:11 remaining.
Duke never trailed again, thanks to 6-of-6 free-throw shooting in the final minute.
When Javin DeLaurier hit both ends of a one-and-one free-throw situation, Duke led by two scores, 66-61, with 52 seconds remaining. Matthew Hurt added two more free throws with 11.7 seconds and two more with 2.4 to ice the game.