No. 20 Duke beats NC State 88-78 to end 3-game losing skid
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Marshall Plumlee snatched a rebound in traffic with only a few seconds left when teammate Matt Jones let out a triumphant yell back toward the Duke bench across the court.
The 20th-ranked Blue Devils’ three-game losing streak was ending, the product of a few midweek tweaks, a dominating second-half offensive performance and what Hall of Fame coach Mike Krzyzewski hopes is some growth from his young group.
“They’re maturing,” Krzyzewski said after Saturday’s 88-78 win at North Carolina State. “They’re becoming more men now than boys.”
Grayson Allen scored 28 points while freshman Brandon Ingram added 25 for the Blue Devils (15-5, 4-3 Atlantic Coast Conference), who trailed by 10 points late in the first half and 43-36 at halftime. But Duke shot 71 percent from the field, including 7 of 11 from 3-point range, and used a 14-0 run midway through the second half to take control and put the Wolfpack (11-9, 1-6) into catch-up mode.
“The start of the second half,” Krzyzewski said, “we played some lights-out offensive basketball and really good defense.”
It had been a rough two weeks for the reigning NCAA champions, whose reshaped roster had been short-handed ever since senior Amile Jefferson went out with a foot injury. They lost at Clemson then at home last weekend to Notre Dame and finally Monday to Syracuse, the program’s first three-game skid since 2006-07 that might ultimately knock Duke out of the AP Top 25 for the first time since that season.
Winning at N.C. State — where the Blue Devils had lost three of four — eased some frustration.
“We realize as a team that we’re not going to just wake up and win,” Jones said. “You have to cherish moments like these and kind of just know it wasn’t given, it was earned.”
Anthony “Cat” Barber scored 19 points to lead N.C. State, though he didn’t score after banging knees with a Duke player with about 14½ minutes left.
The Wolfpack shot 52 percent but couldn’t keep up once Duke’s offense found its flow.
“They don’t need to be ashamed one bit,” Wolfpack coach Mark Gottfried said. “We played very, very well early, and had to overcome some things in the second half and we didn’t get it done.”
Duke: Jones hit two 3-pointers during the 14-0 run. ... Freshman Luke Kennard scored 12 points. ... Duke finished with a 31-28 rebounding advantage after being beaten on the boards in each of its past three losses. ... Jefferson wasn’t wearing a boot Saturday but Krzyzewski said there’s “still no timetable” on his return.
N.C. State: Abdul-Malik Abu and Caleb Martin each scored 14 points. ... N.C. State shot 57 percent in the first half but went 2 for 12 from 3-point range after halftime.
Duke spent much of the game playing a tweaked zone defense, and bounced between some man-to-man and pressure looks, too.
“We put in a number of new things today, whether it be the zone press or going from zone to man and zone,” Krzyzewski said. “You can’t do that in one day. So we had good preparation time” since the Syracuse loss.
The game was played a day after the area received a wintry mix of snow, sleet and freezing rain to create treacherous driving conditions in some nearby areas.
North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory discouraged fans earlier Saturday from trying to attend and told them to “enjoy the game on TV.” It didn’t put much of a damper on a good-sized crowd that was its normal rowdy self.
“Obviously the governor made a statement, and our fans came, I’m telling ya,” Gottfried said. “I’m just proud of our fans. And they deserve for us to get good here. So we’ve got to figure it out.”
Duke travels to No. 15 Miami on Monday.
N.C. State hosts Georgia Tech on Wednesday.