DuPree: Blue Devil fans can circle Feb. 7 on their calendars
While the N.C. State players and fans celebrate one of their program’s biggest wins in years, the Duke Blue Devils are left to regroup after their first loss of the season.
The Wolfpack claimed an 84-76 victory Saturday at PNC Arena in Duke’s first test without 6-10 senior Ryan Kelly in the lineup.
It’s also the first time N.C. State has beaten a top-ranked team since a 78-74 win over the Blue Devils on Feb. 15, 2004, during the Julius Hodge era under Coach Herb Sendek.
The Pack’s fans stormed the court Saturday, the culmination of a long night and morning of buildup for the capacity crowd.
“That was fun, too; that was fun for our guys,” N.C. State second-year coach Mark Gottfried said of the postgame scene. “Our crowd was unreal. Our students started getting out in the middle of the night last night and this morning.
“I’m happy for our fans. I hope that we can continue to deliver, because we’ve got a passionate fanbase and they love their teams — not just our team, all the Wolfpack teams.”
That was evident early, especially when Scott Wood hit the third of his 3-pointers and added a free throw for a four-point play that sparked a 18-7 run by the Pack through the 2:15 mark of the first half.
“The crowd was good; the crowd got going when Scott Wood hit those (3-pointers),” Duke guard Quinn Cook said. “We have to adjust; that’s the ACC. We’ll get better.
“We’re going to fight for 40 minutes. There are some things that we didn’t do well that we wanted to, and those are the things we’ve got to get better at. We fought; we competed all 40 minutes.”
For Duke’s coaching staff, it was their first chance to see if the adjustments they made to compensate for the absence of Kelly, who averages 13.4 points and 5.4 rebounds, were successful. Freshman Amile Jefferson and junior Josh Hairston combined to play most of the minutes available.
“Amile and Josh played well,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “We got 18 (points) and nine (rebounds) from them (combined). “They just don’t know the defense and execution of the offense as well as Ryan.”
Hairston conceded that he needs more work.
“I felt like, when I was going up for a lot of rebounds, I had either jumped too early or jumped too late,” Hairston said. “That’s just going to come with more playing time, just trying to make the proper adjustments and get my timing down.
“We need Ryan, but we’re not going to use that as an excuse. ... Ryan’s ability to stretch the floor, he’s the best at that in the country, we feel like.”
The Blue Devils likely will continue to tweak the lineup and their offense.
“We have to adjust; we have to run different sets,” Cook said. “Coach drew up plays, and we ran them for the first time.
“Guys have got to be ready. Marshall (Plumlee), Alex (Murphy) — their number is going to be called more now. Guys will be ready.”
Obviously, Duke won’t be ranked No. 1 when the polls are announced on Monday, nor will N.C. State remain No. 20. It’s a nice win for the Pack, but far from a crushing defeat for the Blue Devils.
“I think we learned a lot,” Hairston said. “We didn’t play a terrible game; N.C. State played a great game.
“They’re a great team, and we played in front of a hostile crowd. This is the first time that the young guys have played in a true road environment.”
The lesson both the Wolfpack and Blue Devils seemed to share is that there’s still a lot of basketball left to be played.
“We have 18 conference games,” Gottfried said. “We’re going to enjoy this tonight; our players should. But we’ve got to get ready to play on the road at Maryland (on Wednesday).
“It’s a good win today against a really good program, a really good team. We need to find a way to get past that on Monday and get ourselves ready to go on the road. That’s the nature of this league.”
For now, the Wolfpack reigns as the top men’s basketball team in the Triangle according to the ACC standings, though the new Top 25 polls won’t reflect that.
But Duke fans can circle Feb. 7 on the calendar — that’s when the teams will meet at Cameron Indoor Stadium for the rematch.
You may contact Jimmy DuPree at email@example.com or 919-419-6674.