Florida State left Cam Reddish wide open when his Duke teammate, Tre Jones, threw the ball in-bounds with 2.8 seconds left on Saturday.
No one could argue with Seminoles coach Leonard Hamilton’s logic.
Duke freshman RJ Barrett, the ACC’s leading scorer, had already scored 32 points in the game between the No. 1 Blue Devils and No. 13 Seminoles.
Though Reddish had 20 points in the game, he’d failed to score more than 10 points in any of Duke’s last six games. The 6-8 freshmen had made 15 of 59 shots (25.4 percent), including 7 of 38 3-pointers (18.4 percent) during that stretch.
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Despite that slump, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski expressed confidence Reddish could produce more. His teammates did the same. Reddish appreciated that but also sought help from a higher power.
“Praying every day,” Reddish said.
The answers every Duke fan wanted came in the final seconds when a wide-open Reddish took the pass from Jones and swished a 3-pointer giving Duke an 80-78 win at the Tucker Center.
“I knew it was coming,” Reddish said. “I wasn’t sure when. But I had to just trust God and continue to work hard.”
Reddish made 9 of 15 shots, including 5 of 8 3-pointers, against the Seminoles even though he fought through cramps in the second half.
When the final play was developing, Barrett had already made 10 of 19 shots, including 4 of 7 3-pointers. With Zion Williamson sidelined after being poked in the left eye, it was up to Reddish and Barrett to handle things.
They scored 35 of Duke’s 42 second-half points.
Jones sought to inbound that final pass with Florida State 7-4 center Chris Koumadje standing in front of him.
Reddish started the play on the opposite side of the free throw lane, and the basket, from Jones. As the players moved, Jack White and Marques Bolden ran into the lane running interference on Florida State defenders Terance Mann and Trent Forrest.
That allowed Reddish to run unencumbered across the lane and set up in front of the Duke bench behind the 3-point line. Barrett cut through the lane heading for the corner nearest Jones but was covered closely by Florida State’s MJ Walker.
“We wanted (Reddish) to get the ball,” Krzyzewski said. “I think they were kind of fixated on RJ.”
The 6-2 Jones peeked around Koumadje and zipped the ball to Reddish, who caught it cleanly, rose and fired the ball through the hoop with 0.8 of a second to play.
Hamilton may have been okay with Reddish getting the ball. He just wasn’t cool with Reddish being so wide open.
“I didn’t expect them to get the ball in at the elbow,” Hamilton said. “I thought we had that covered. I expected them to get the ball in bounds but not a direct pass out of bounds to a guy at the elbow. They did a very good job of creating some misdirection.”
Reddish received redemption for what had been a tough season so far. His field goal shooting percentage had dropped to 36.1 percent. His 3-point percentage was 33.7 percent. His 42 turnovers were more than any other Duke player.
None of that mattered in Duke’s jubilant post-game celebration. Replays of Reddish’s shot were played on mobile devices to the expected reactions of smiles and cheers.
In one corner, Jones sat answering questions, happy that his roommate had good things come his way after so many tough days over the last six weeks.
“It means a lot to me and I know it means a lot to Cam,” Jones said. “That’s my roommate. I’m with him every day. Always Talking to him. I’ve been seeing the work that he’s been putting in trying to get back to himself. We all could see that today. He’s back to himself. He played extremely well. But that’s who he is. I don’t think you should be surprised if that’s the Cam you see from now on.”
Krzyzewski knew Reddish had it in him. That faith paid off for he and the Blue Devils.
“A huge game for him,” Krzyzewski said. “Whenever any kid hits a game-winner like that, it’s storybook.”