TALLAHASSEE — The Duke system is simple: Austin Rivers drives into the lane or one of his teammates shoots a 3-pointer. And in Thursday's matchup of two of the top teams in the ACC, that's what the No. 5 Blue Devils did.
They took 28 of their 52 shots from behind the arc and connected on 13 to beat No. 15 Florida State 74-66.
"That's a team playing to their strength," said Seminoles coach Leonard Hamilton, whose team won 76-73 in Durham on Jan. 21. "When you can spot up 3-4 guys that are capable of knocking down 3s … that offensive system was difficult for us to defend."
With the win, Duke (24-4, 11-2 ACC) tied North Carolina for first in the league and clinched a first-round bye in the conference tournament. FSU (19-8, 10-3) sits a game behind.
Each team has three games left. But with North Carolina and Duke meeting in the finale, FSU still has a chance for its first regular-season title. The Seminoles play at Miami on Sunday.
Duke's sharpshooters took their turn hurting the Seminoles.
Initially, it was Andre Dawkins. He made four 3-pointers in a span of three minutes of the first half (and made all three free throws after drawing a foul on a 3-point attempt) to put the Blue Devils up 26-17. Dawkins finished 6-for-9 from 3-point range and scored a game-high 22.
When FSU cut the deficit to three on three occasions in the second half, Seth Curry and Ryan Kelly buried deep shots.
Rivers, who scored 20, made four 3-pointers. And when the freshman point guard threatened to penetrate the lane, FSU's defense collapsed, leaving at least one shooter open outside.
"They played us like an instrument. They sucked us in, and then they kicked out," said FSU senior forward Bernard James, who had 13 points, nine rebounds and five blocked shots.
"They weren't particularly hurting us inside. We didn't make that adjustment to not help (on defense) so much. Pretty much every time we did, they either got a corner, kickout 3 or were able to get one on the wing."
A 12-of-22 performance from the free-throw line hindered FSU's ability to take advantage of its dominant interior offense. And Michael Snaer, the Seminoles' leading scorer whose 3-pointer at the buzzer won the teams' first meeting, sat out the last 9:49 of the first half after committing his second foul.
Hamilton, whose team made just 4-of-15 3-pointers, credited the Blue Devils defense, which was once a weakness, for keeping the Seminoles out of rhythm.
After the game, as he was repeatedly asked to analyze minutia of the game, Hamilton kept returning to the same thought: Duke is a good team.
Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski said the same about the Seminoles.
"I love Leonard," Krzyzewski said.
"He and his staff, every year, they're just so sound. And this year, I just think they have a little bit more magic."