The much billed rematch looked more like a mismatch at least for three quarters of the game, before NC State used a sizzling second half shooting performance to make it a much closer contest.
In the end the Blue Devils held on to win 98-85 and get a level of revenge after the first meeting resulted in the Blue Devils’ first loss this season.
Duke came out simply on fire shooting 61 percent from the floor in the first half and hitting 10 three pointers to take a 20 point lead into the halftime break.
Duke got another monster game out of Mason Plumlee who scored 30 point and grabbed 9 rebounds as he dominated CJ Leslie most of the game. Seth Curry added 26 points and Quinn Cook chipped in 21 as the Blue Devils responded despite being even more short handed than usual after having lost Josh Hairston for the game due to an infected cut on his arm.
Early on it didn’t look like Duke would miss him but as foul troubled mounted and NC State heated up in the second half the Blue Devils lead would melt away and the Wolfpack pulled within 8 points late. Duke, though, managed to have enough in the tank to hold on.
The game became a tale of two halves with the first being all Duke and the second becoming a gut wrenching exercise for Duke fans. The Blue Devils defensive intensity was non existent and NC State shot lights out, nearly 80 percent for the half, to cut the lead down.
The Wolfpack were without possibly their best layer in Lorenzo Brown who missed his third straight game with an injured ankle. Back-up point guard Tyler Lewis acquitted himself quite well despite making his first trip to Cameron Indoor Stadium. The freshman point guard scored 13 point and dished out 6 assist while committing no turnovers.
Fellow freshman Rodney Purvis couldn’t say the same thing as he didn’t manage to score until well into the second half, finishing with only 7 points. NC State got another monster game from Richard Howell who scored 23 point and grabbed 9 rebounds before fouling out on a critical call late in the game.
It didn’t end pretty, still the victory for Duke is a big one and one they can continue to build on as they continue to hold out hope of getting senior Ryan Kelly back in time for runs in the ACC and NCAA Tournaments. Duke improves to 20-2 (7-2 ACC) and stays two games back of first place Miami (9-0).
For NC State this marks the third straight loss, all without Brown, and drops them to 16-7 (5-5 ACC) and puts them at serious risk of falling on to the bubble for the NCAA Tournament; something that seemed hardly possible a month ago after beating the Blue Devils in Raleigh.
Still there are some negatives for the Blue Devils who allowed the Wolfpack to get back into the game with poor defensive execution and sloppy play down the stretch. Fortunately for Duke they made enough plays in the end to pull out the victory and get their revenge on the Wolfpack who haven’t beaten Duke in Durham since 1988.
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