Duke shuts down State

Published 12:00 am Sunday, January 28, 2007

By David Shaw

Salisbury Post

RALEIGH — For the second time this week, Duke mastered the ABCs of playing D.

The 14th-ranked Blue Devils defended like Rottweilers lunging at a chain-link fence — particularly in the decisive first half — in Saturday’s easy 79-56 victory at N.C. State.

“Defense has always been our thing,” Josh McRoberts said after Duke (16-3, 3-2 ACC) forced 16 first-half turnovers and limited the Wolfpack to 14 field goals. “And especially today. We were very motivated coming in. We were on a mission to get a win — and were willing to do whatever it took.”

It took a balanced scoring attack — five Duke players reached double figures — and a defense that wasn’t taking ‘No’ for an answer.

“Defense was key. We’ve got to credit the coaching staff for developing a great scouting report,” DeMarcus Nelson said after Duke held State (11-7, 1-4) without a basket over the game’s final five minutes. “We just wanted to pressure them, contest them, make them take tough shots. We did that, plus we rebounded and we ran.”

State coach Sidney Lowe called the game “discouraging,” and added: “We were too distracted and kept turning the ball over. We didn’t execute the pass the way we should have. Our guys were trying to do too much.”

State’s Gavin Grant was a target of Duke’s man-eating defense. The junior forward from New York managed only six shots from the floor. He converted one — a 3-pointer as the first half ended — and finished with seven points, one assist and one rebound.

“I wasn’t able to get the ball where I wanted it,” Grant said after State shot 34 percent from the field and never led. “They wouldn’t let me drive the ball. As a team, they played really, really good defense.”

McRoberts (eight rebounds, four steals, two blocks) anchored that defense. Teammate Jon Scheyer paced the offense, shooting 6-for-11 from the floor, draining three 3-pointers and tallying 20 points.

“They were really big up front,” Scheyer said. “But they don’t have any super-quick guards. So when they came flying out at me, all I had to do was fake and find the lanes.”

The Devils found enough of them to build an 18-5 lead in the opening eight minutes. State closed the gap to 30-22 on a layup by 6-foot-9 sophomore Ben McCauley with 4:07 left in the half before Duke pushed the pedal on an 11-0 spurt that settled the outcome.

“We try to bury each team we play,” Nelson said. “We try to impose our will on them. Every game should be like this.”

Maybe that born-again Duke swagger is what most disturbed Lowe. “We hurt ourselves in so many ways,” he said. “We missed some layups, and I can deal with that. What I care about is the defensive end and covering the other team. Some of our guys didn’t show up today. You can’t do that against Duke.”

The tune coming from the opposite corner was much sweeter.

“We are becoming better as a team,” winning coach Mike Krzyzewski chirped. “We prepared with passion and played with passion.”

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NOTES: Duke converted 31 of 59 field-goal attempts (53 percent) and outrebounded the Pack 31-25. The Devils held Wake Forest to 40 points and 33 percent shooting Thursday. … Krzyzewski is now four victories away from becoming the eighth coach to win 700 games at one school. He’s 696-194 in 27 years in Durham. … Redshirt freshman Brandon Costner had 20 points and 10 rebounds for State. He sank 11 of 12 free-throw attempts. Teammate Courtney Fells added 13 points but missed an uncontested jam in the first half that helped turn momentum Duke’s way. … State is 0-4 against ranked teams this season. … State point guard Engin Atsur did not play and has now missed 11 of the last 12 games with a hamstring injury. … State will play host to Virginia on Wednesday night. Duke entertains Clemson on Thursday.

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