Blue Devils, Pack put on another classic
Before Duke and N.C. State played Thursday night, plenty of talk circulated about which injured players wouldn’t be on the court.
From the performances at Cameron Indoor Stadium, it was hard to tell both teams were less than 100 percent.
N.C. State played without point guard Lorenzo Brown (ankle). Duke played without starting senior Ryan Kelly (right foot) and junior reserve Josh Hairston (arm).
Yet Duke shot 61.3 percent while scoring 58 first-half points. N.C. State shot 65.5 percent in the second half to make Duke sweat before the Blue Devils emerged with a 98-85 ACC basketball win.
It was the kind of stuff even a legendary coach found outstanding.
“Well for two teams that both have key players out, what a performance by both teams,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “I mean, that was ACC basketball tonight. I thought both teams played their hearts out.”
No. 4-ranked Duke (20-2, 7-2) won its fourth consecutive game and improved to 5-2 in games since Kelly, a versatile 6-11 forward, injured his right foot on Jan. 8.
The Blue Devils stopped N.C. State (16-7, 5-5), which beat Duke 84-76 in Raleigh on Jan. 12, with an attack that featured 30 points from center Mason Plumlee, 26 points from guard Seth Curry and 21 points from point guard Quinn Cook.
It’s the first time in 11 years that Duke has had a 30-point scorer and two 20-point scorers in the same game. Jason Williams, Mike Dunleavy and Carlos Boozer did it against Maryland on Jan. 17, 2002.
“It was a great time out there,” Cook said. “When guys are hitting shots and being unselfish, we’re a great team. It was definitely fun to be out there in the first half.”
Duke made 10 3-pointers in the first half to open a 21-point halftime lead. The Blue Devils scored 20 of the game’s first 25 points to put the Wolfpack in a deep hole.
“I thought in probably the first eight to 10 minutes, they were just sensational,” N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried said.
N.C. State, riding the poise of freshman point guard Tyler Lewis and the interior talents of Richard Howell and C.J. Leslie, put pressure on Duke after halftime. The Wolfpack made 14 of their first 19 shots to cut deeply into the 21-point deficit.
Lewis, playing in place of Brown, scored 13 points with six assists while not committing a turnover.
Howell scored 23 points and grabbed nine rebounds, while Leslie had 16 points.
Still, despite missing all seven of their 3-pointers after halftime, the Blue Devils held off N.C. State.
“When you lose, you never feel really good,” Gottfried said. “Our guys battled hard. They played extremely hard, they never quit. We just couldn’t seem to get one or two more stops and scores at the same time right when we needed to.
“We could almost get it under 10 and get it right in there, and then they did a nice job of pushing it back out.”
Cook had one of the bigger plays in the final minutes. After N.C. State had finally sliced the deficit to single digits at 84-75, Cook sank a pull-up jumper from 16 feet with 4:01 left giving Duke an 86-75 lead.
After Howell fouled out on an offensive foul when, while holding the ball, he swung an elbow and caught Plumlee in the face, Plumlee sank two free throws to give Duke a 13-point lead with 3:41 left.
N.C. State did pull within eight points and had the ball with a minute to play. But Jordan Vandenberg and Scott Wood missed shots and the Wolfpack never scored again.
“We wanted to avenge that loss in Raleigh, but more so we just wanted to keep playing well,” Curry said. “We played well at Florida State (last Saturday), and we wanted to carry that momentum. We’re kind of figuring out who we are as a team, and that’s allowing us to play well.”