DUKE BAGS PACK
A sizzling first half put No. 4 Duke in control on Thursday night.
Surviving N.C. State’s torrid shooting in the second half required guile its seniors were able to provide.
Mason Plumlee scored 30 points and Seth Curry had 26, leading Duke to a 98-85 win over N.C. State in ACC basketball at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
The Blue Devils (20-2, 7-2 ACC) avenged an 84-76 loss to the Wolfpack last month in Raleigh with a strikingly good first half. Duke shot 61.8 percent over the game’s first 20 minutes, making 10 of 17 3-pointers to open a 21-point halftime lead.
“I don’t know if we can play any harder or better (than we did) in the first half,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said.
In addition to Plumlee and Curry, point guard Quinn Cook scored 21 points and freshman Rasheed Sulaimon had 11.
Duke needed all that production to hold off a Wolfpack team that, despite playing without injured point guard Lorenzo Brown, shot 65.5 percent in the second half. Curry, after scoring 18 points in the first half, didn’t make a field goal after halftime. But his 8 of 10 free throws were a big reason Duke never saw its big lead fall below eight points.
Plumlee, in the running for national player of the year, was the other big reason Duke posted the win. The 6-10 center scored 15 points in the first half and 15 points in the second for his second 30-point game in the his last three.
“I think he’s playing as well as anyone in the country,” Krzyzewski said. “His moves inside are really beautiful because he’s playing through contact.”
Plumlee made 9 of 11 shots from the field while hitting 12 of 16 free throws. He also had nine rebounds and blocked two shots as Duke won its fourth game in a row.
Curry hit four 3-pointers in the first half as Duke quickly pulled away from the Wolfpack (16-7, 5-5).
“I felt like I had an advantage,” Curry said. “So I was just being aggressive. I was coming off screens hard and being aggressive. I had opportunities to score and I was able to knock down shots early.”
The Blue Devils showed aggressiveness on both ends of the court from the game’s beginning and carried over their hot shooting from Saturday’s win at Florida State. Duke shot 60.8 percent in beating the Seminoles 79-60.
Against N.C. State, Duke hit 61.3 percent of its first half shots, including 10 of 16 3-pointers, to take a 58-37 halftime lead.
With N.C. State missing Brown, the Blue Devils had a big edge on the perimeter. Duke had 14 assists and only two turnovers in the first half.
“They played as well as I’ve seen them play,” N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried said. “They shot the ball well. We had a hard time keeping them from scoring. They shot the ball from the 3. A number of those we had a hand up and we were chasing them off a screen as they were knocking them down.”
Curry scored 18 of his 26 points over the first 20 minutes. He made 4 of 9 3-pointers. Inside, Plumlee made all five of his field-goal attempts.
Duke’s blitz began early as the Blue Devils made six of their first 7 shots over the first four minutes. That included three 3-pointers as Duke built a 16-5 lead. N.C. State would never cut the deficit into single digits again until late in the second half.
While the Blue Devils were red hot from the field, N.C. State struggled to sink shots and was out of sync without Brown. The Wolfpack made just 7 of its first 24 shots as Duke took a 38-19 lead.
N.C. State finally found its groove on offense over the next five minutes, making 9 of its next 10 shots. The Wolfpack climbed back within 12 points on two occasions.
But Duke’s 3-point shooting heated up again. Cook hit one and Curry sank two more. Curry scored Duke’s final 10 points of the half as the Blue Devils took their 21-point lead to intermission.
While N.C. State was making 12 of its first 14 shots after halftime, Duke’s offense wasn’t anywhere near its first-half level.
“They are so talented, especially on the offensive end, they are never out of a game,” Krzyzewski said of the Wolfpack.
But while the shots weren’t falling on the perimeter, the Blue Devils found their way to the line. Duke shot 28 second-half free throws, making 22 of them.
Richard Howell scored 23 points to lead N.C State before fouling out with 3:41 to play.
“Howell, for all the players in our league, is the unsung hero,” Krzyzewski said. “The unsung great player in our league.”
C.J. Leslie, who also fouled out, finished with 16 points as the Wolfpack dropped its third consecutive game.
No. 4 Duke 98, N.C. State 85
Percentages: FG .530, FT .579. 3-Point Goals: 4-9, .444 (Wood 4-7, T. Lewis 0-1, Purvis 0-1). Team Rebounds: 4. Blocked Shots: 1 (Howell). Turnovers: 7 (Leslie 4, Warren, Howell, Wood). Steals: 2 (T. Lewis, Howell). Technical Fouls: None.
Percentages: FG .538, FT .780. 3-Point Goals: 10-24, .417 (Cook 4-5, Curry 4-12, Sulaimon 2-4, Thornton 0-1, Murphy 0-2). Team Rebounds: 3. Blocked Shots: 4 (Mas. Plumlee 2, Jefferson, Cook). Turnovers: 8 (Sulaimon 2, Cook 2, Jefferson, Mas. Plumlee, Curry, Thornton). Steals: 3 (Thornton 2, Curry). Technical Fouls: None.
A—9,314. Officials—Bryan Kersey, Ray Natili, Mike Stuart.