Duke 92, N.C. State 78
By Aaron Beard
RALEIGH — Fourth-ranked Duke got the typical big-scoring performances from its senior stars with plenty of support from guys like Miles Plumlee and Ryan Kelly.
That’s what coach Mike Krzyzewski wants from a team that is quite different from the one that started the season.
Nolan Smith scored 22 points to help the Blue Devils beat North Carolina State 92-78 on Wednesday night, avenging last season’s surprising road loss to the Wolfpack.
Kyle Singler added 18 points for the Blue Devils (17-1, 4-1 Atlantic Coast Conference), who harassed the Wolfpack into 22 percent shooting in the first half to build a 42-28 halftime lead. Then, after N.C. State (11-7, 1-3) closed the gap, Duke turned away that comeback bid to extend their recent dominance in the series.
Duke shot 51 percent and had plenty of balance with Plumlee and Kelly each getting 11 points and eight rebounds while Andre Dawkins added eight first-half points to help Duke build its early lead. Mason Plumlee had five of his six blocks in the first half to help slow the Wolfpack’s talented front line and finished with 10 rebounds as part of Duke’s 44-34 edge on the glass.
“Everybody came to contribute,” Kelly said. “That’s what we told each other we were going to do today, come out and everybody was going to make plays on the offensive and defensive end, whether it be the guys that came in for a few minutes off the bench.”
That’s more important as the Blue Devils play without star freshman point guard Kyrie Irving, who is out indefinitely with a toe injury.
“Those seven guys outside of Nolan and Kyle, they just need experience,” Krzyzewski said. “They need to do things like they did tonight and they need to do it a few more times so they say, ‘That’s what I do. It’s not what I did on Jan. 19 against State. That’s what I do.’ That’s how roles are developed, at least for us.”
Last year, N.C. State earned a surprisingly easy 88-74 win against the Blue Devils last season in which Tracy Smith scored 23 points and the Wolfpack shot 58 percent. The game ended with Sidney Lowe being mobbed by his assistant coaches, then disappearing in a crowd of red-clad fans running to midcourt to celebrate.
But the Blue Devils made this game look like so many have for the Wolfpack in recent years. Duke has won 29 of 34 meetings with N.C. State since 1995 and improved to 5-2 against Lowe.
N.C. State, picked to finish fourth in the league, has lost three straight overall.
“We need to get a win,” Lowe said. “We need to get something going. We look at our lineups, we need to put the guys out on the floor that are going to be productive. That’s where it is now. We’re at that stage. There’s still a lot of games left, but we need a run.”
Lowe juggled his lineup, most notably by playing freshman point guard Ryan Harrow almost the entire way over starter Javi Gonzalez (6 minutes). Harrow had 15 points while Smith scored 19 points to lead N.C. State, though he didn’t have the same ease getting those points inside that he did last season.
Duke held N.C. State to 8-for-37 shooting in the first half to build a 42-28 lead. But N.C. State roared back to start the second half, with Smith and his frontcourtmates finally finding room to operate in the paint.
N.C. State opened with a 9-2 spurt to close the gap, then got two contested catch-and-shoot 3s from Wood to get as close as 54-49 with about 13 minutes left.
But after the Wolfpack expended all that energy to climb back in the game, the Blue Devils calmly responded with a spurt that erased all that work. First Smith scored on a transition layup when the Wolfpack failed to get back on defense after a missed free throw to make it 58-50.
Smith then found Kelly alone in the far right corner for a 3, then led the break after an N.C. State miss and found Singler sprinting in on the right side for a layup that pushed Duke’s lead to 63-50 with 11:05 to play.
“It gets tiring when a team continues to pull away once you get it to a comfortable margin,” Nolan Smith said. “But that just shows how tough they are. They kept fighting, and we had to keep fighting to finish the game.”
The Wolfpack got no closer than eight points after that despite shooting 55 percent after halftime.
“That’s the story of our season right there,” said Wood, who had 15 points. “We just haven’t gotten over the hump yet.”