Hot-handed Pack shoots holes in Duke's 'D'
RALEIGH — Duke pieced together enough offense to win despite starting forward Ryan Kelly’s absence on Saturday.
Defensively, though, the Blue Devils’ vulnerability cost them their perfect season.
No. 20 N.C. State scored like no other team had against No. 1 Duke this season, making more than half their shots in an 84-76 win at PNC Arena.
The Wolfpack (14-2, 3-0 in ACC) claimed their 10th consecutive win by shooting 50.8 percent, the first time Duke had allowed a team to shoot better than 50 percent this season. N.C. State is also the first team to top the 80-point mark against Duke (15-1, 2-1 in ACC).
“It was a lot of layups, a lot of transition buckets and transition 3s,” Duke senior center Mason Plumlee said. “I think that’s why they scored more than any team has on the year. We have to have better defensive balance. Guys either have to go to the boards or be back. You can’t be in no man’s land.”
Loathe to rely on excuses in losses, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski praised N.C. State’s talented roster. He singled out N.C. State guard Lorenzo Brown (12 points, 13 assists), and forward Richard Howell (16 points, 18 rebounds).
At the same time, Krzyzewski said the right foot injury that kept Kelly on the bench in street clothes hampered Duke’s ability to defend.
“Look I’m not going to belabor Ryan Kelly,” Krzyzewski said. “Ryan Kelly is one of the best players in the country in position defense. But he also is that guy who covers and corrals guys. No one has done that against us this year, OK? So that’s the problem.”
Junior forward Josh Hairston and freshman Amile Jefferson picked up the majority of Kelly’s minutes. They combined for 18 points and nine rebounds, production that Krzyzewski said pleased him.
But Brown’s ability to get the Wolfpack running, even after Duke made baskets, proved the difference.
“Brown is as good as there is in the country in transition,” Krzyzewski said. “He’s just a superb guard. His play the last eight minutes of the first half … Their transition is what really won the game for them and he’s terrific.”
That late first-half run by the Wolfpack reversed the game into their favor permanently. Duke had built a 27-19 lead when Plumlee scored on a slam dunk with 8:53 left before halftime.
N.C. State, though, scored 14 of the game’s next 16 points. Rodney Purvis’ breakaway slam dunk at 3:53 gave the Wolfpack a 33-29 lead and brought the sellout crowd of 19,557 to a roar.
Duke tied the game on a Seth Curry 3-pointer before T.J. Warren’s floater in the lane gave N.C. State a 41-39 lead.
The Wolfpack never gave up the lead again.
Howell started the second half rebounding misses to score on back-to-back possessions.
“Howell,” Krzyzewski said, “is just a beast.”
With Howell and C.J. Leslie (who scored a game-high 25 points) maneuvering inside, the Wolfpack built an eight-point lead.
Curry, who scored 22 points, helped bring Duke back. He drove to the basket to score and, after a Brown miss, drained a long 3-pointer to slice N.C. State’s lead to 58-57 with 10:27 to play.
But N.C. State rattled off nine consecutive points to take control for good. Leslie scored the first three baskets of the run inside before Purvis scored a transition layup, drew a foul and sank a free throw for a 67-57 N.C. State lead with 7:44 left.
“Our guys really played hard,” N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried said. “They knew this was a big deal. Our ability to finish defensive possessions with rebounds in the second half helped us. The best offense we could run was getting on the boards and scoring.”
Duke never got closer than four points the rest of the game. Already without Kelly, who averages 13.4 points and 5.4 rebounds, the Blue Devils were further hampered with Curry rolled his left ankle and left the game for the final three minutes.
Krzyzewski said Curry slipped on a wet spot on the court. While the injury is different than the right leg discomfort Curry has battled all season, Duke guard Quinn Cook said Curry was moving around better after the game.
As for how Duke will recover from its first loss, the Blue Devils get a few days to mull their non-Kelly strategy before Georgia Tech comes to Cameron Indoor Stadium Thursday (9 p.m., ESPN).
“There’s going to be hiccups,” Krzyzewski said. “It’s just the way it is. Look, no one will feel sorry and I’m not asking for anyone’s sympathy. That’s just the way it is. We’ll go and run our race and see where that ends and see what the heck happens.”
No. 20 N.C. State 84, No. 1 Duke 76
Percentages: FG .448, FT .833. 3-Point Goals: 6-20, .300 (Curry 5-10, Cook 1-6, Thornton 0-1, Sulaimon 0-3). Team Rebounds: 4. Blocked Shots: 4 (Jefferson 2, Mas. Plumlee 2). Turnovers: 12 (Curry 4, Cook 4, Hairston 2, Mas. Plumlee 2). Steals: 6 (Mas. Plumlee 4, Thornton 2). Technical Fouls: Thornton.
Percentages: FG .508, FT .870. 3-Point Goals: 4-8, .500 (Wood 3-3, Brown 1-4, Purvis 0-1). Team Rebounds: 1. Blocked Shots: 4 (Leslie 2, Warren, Wood). Turnovers: 11 (Brown 4, Howell 2, Wood 2, Leslie, Purvis, Warren). Steals: 4 (Howell 2, Purvis, Brown). Technical Fouls: Wood.
A—19,557. Officials—Les Jones, Doug Sirmons, Gary Maxwell.