N.C. State dethrones Duke
When the final horn sounded, N.C. State’s players started embracing at midcourt while fans stormed the PNC floor in delirium.
Soon afterward, some members of the 20th-ranked Wolfpack experienced something new – crowd surfing during a celebration of an 84-76 victory over a top-ranked Duke team that was not at full strength, leaving Michigan as the only undefeated team in the nation.
State (14-2) improved to 3-0 in the ACC with its 10th straight win, two things that haven’t happened since the 1988-89 season. Duke drops to 15-1, 2-1.
“This is No. 1 in my book,” State center Richard Howell said. “You don’t get many chances to play the No. 1 team, much less best a No. 1 team. To beat them at home my senior year and being undefeated is a great way to start out in the ACC.”
In four other tries, State had not beaten a No. 1 team since upending Duke 78-74 here on Feb. 15, 2004.
Howell and C.J..Leslie played key roles as the Wolfpack held the upper hand near the basket in the second half. Leslie scored 25 points that included 14 in the second half and six in a row to start a 10-0 run after Seth Curry hit a 3 to bring the Devils within one with 10:32 left. Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski at one point tried slowing Leslie by putting a bigger body on him in the form of reserve Marshall Plumlee.
“Coming out and doing that in that situation is what is expected of me,” Leslie said. “I’m not excited that I did that. That’s what’s expected if we want to get the win.”
Howell scored 16 points and grabbed 18 rebounds, tying his best in an ACC game, after having just four boards in the first half while Duke used second-chance points to go up by as many as eight. State eventually went ahead to stay on T.J. Warren’s runner in the lane with two seconds to go before the break.
“It was just better effort,” Howell said of the better rebounding. “The only reason we were only up by two is we gave them too many second-chance points. We should have been up 10.”
Said Krzyzewski: “He is a beast.”
Leslie said that Howell had a goal of getting every rebound in the second half.
The Wolfpack put five players in double figures as Scott Wood had 14, Lorenzo Brown 14 and Warren 10. Brown also dished all 13 of State’s assists.
After the State lead reached 10 with 10 minutes to go, Duke got no closer than four, the first time when Curry hit a 3 that turned out to be the last of his team-leading 22 points. Shortly after that, he slipped on a wet spot, injured an ankle and went to the locker room.
That thinned a Blue Devil rotation that started the game without senior forward Ryan Kelly, who aggravated a foot injury Tuesday against Clemson. Duke became thinner when Amile Jefferson, whom Krzyzewski used with Josh Hairston to replace Kelly, fouled out with eight minutes to go after scoring 10 points.
By the end, point guard Quinn Cook, who scored 17 points, had fouled out as did role player Tyler Thornton. Cook’s departure left Mason Plumlee (15 points, 11 rebounds) as the only certain offensive threat.
But, it was the absence of Kelly that made the biggest impact.
“I know no one is going to have any sympathy for us,” Krzyzewski said. “But, Ryan Kelly is one of the best players in the defensive position. He’s also the guy who covers the floor and corrals guys. No one has done that (pushed the ball in transition) to us all year.”
Jefferson and Hairston combined for 18 points and nine rebounds.
“They just don’t know the execution of the offense and the defense like Ryan,” Krzyzewski said. “We’re not a great team with Ryan, we’re a really good team, but we’re better than our parts when they are all together.”
Duke got within four for the final time on Plumlee’s layup with 2:07 left. But, State stretched the lead on Leslie’s last layup and by coverting 9 of 10 foul shots.
“We were able to slow down, take a deep breath and execute,” State coach Mark Gottfried said. “Our togetherness and the way our players are complementing each other is encouraging.”