N.C. State beats Duke basketball 84-76 for the first loss of the season

By Brady Buck

The Duke Chronicle, Duke U. via UWIRE

N.C. State beats Duke basketball 84-76 for the first loss of the season

RALEIGH, N.C.—Coming into the 2012-13 college basketball season, preseason ACC favorite N.C. State had a motto for the year—“Our State”—in hopes of winning the ACC title over Triangle rivals Duke and North Carolina, who have maintained a firm grip on the conference crown for much of the past decade.

And on Saturday, it was the Wolfpack’s state. A deadly fastbreak attack paced by senior floor general Lorenzo Brown—who finished with 12 points and dished out all 13 of N.C. State’s assists in the game—combined with powerful inside forces Richard Howell and C.J. Leslie were too much for the shorthanded Blue Devils to overcome, as N.C. State earned the 84-76 victory.

“Their transition is what really won the game for them,” Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “And [Howell] is just a beast.”

Playing its first true road game of the year in a hostile environment of more than 19,000 Wolfpack fans and without senior forward Ryan Kelly, No. 1 Duke (15-1, 2-1 in the ACC) looked as if it was in position to take No. 20 N.C. State (14-2, 3-0 in the ACC) to the wire at half when it only trailed by two points.

From the onset of the second half, N.C. State looked poised to earn a signature conference win over the top team in the country by starting the half with a 8-2 run, owning the glass and forcing Duke to take difficult shots. From there, the Wolfpack had control the rest of the way.

“We drew some energy off our fans, no question about it,” Wolfpack head coach Mark Gottfried said. “Our guys played really hard, they knew this was a big deal. Our ability to finish defensive possessions with rebounds in the second half helped us. The best offense we could run was getting on the boards and scoring.”

Senior Richard Howell—a bruising 6-foot-9, 257-pound big man—punished Duke on the boards, grabbing 18 rebounds and scoring 16 points. Junior C.J. Leslie, his running mate in the frontcourt, showed why he was voted the preseason ACC Player of the Year—finishing with a game-high 25 points on 9-of-16 field goal shooting and 7-for-8 at the charity stripe. Making those stats even more impressive, Leslie was guarded by Mason Plumlee—Duke’s best player and National Player of the Year hopeful—for much of the contest.

“C.J. was unbelievable,” Gottfried said. “I think in the second half he made his mind up and down the stretch offensively he was nearly unguardable. He showed a lot of resilience just to keep attacking the rim.”

The Plumlee-Leslie matchup was arguably the most intriguing of the afternoon. Plumlee was able to muster 15 points and 11 rebounds against perhaps the most formidable froncourt he has faced this season.

Despite fighting admirably all game-long when N.C. State was often on the verge of pulling away in the second half, the Blue Devils could not catch the breaks it needed to keep its perfect record in tact. Senior guard Seth Curry was consistently clutch all day by hitting timely shots to keep Duke within arms reach of the Wolfpack for much of the day. The senior netted a team-high 22 points on 5-of-10 shooting from three-point range.

Unfortunately for Duke, Curry slipped on the court and was forced to leave the game with an ankle injury in the closing minutes of the game.

“[Curry] played well,” sophomore point guard Quinn Cook said. “He’s the best shooter in the country. He made it rough for their defense to guard him.”

Coming off the bench against the squad he nearly picked over Duke last May, freshman forward Amile Jefferson—who played well with 10 points and four rebounds in just nine minutes of action—fouled out of the game at the 8:07 mark with Duke down just 62-57.

Jefferson fouling out proved to be one of the turning points in the game. From that point on, Leslie and Howell continued to overwhelm Duke in the paint down the stretch, while the Wolfpack’s athletic fast break was able to finish when it needed to, allowing them to build a double-digit lead 67-57 with 7:07 left to play. To seal the victory, N.C. State held off the Blue Devils by converting from the free throw line as the game drew to an end.

Like Jefferson, junior guard Tyler Thornton—a defensive-orientated guard, who Krzyzewski used over starting freshman guard Rasheed Sulaimon for much of the second half—was riddled by foul trouble against a dynamic N.C. State backcourt, and fouled out in the closing seconds of the game.

“[N.C. State is] a great team,” said Cook, who finished with 17 points and seven assists. “They are very athletic. Purvis and Brown in transition are very tough to stop… They got going in the second half.”

With Kelly out of commission, the Blue Devils have struggled considerably. The team is just 4-5 when he is out of the lineup, dating back to last season.

Josh Hairston, who celebrated his 21st birthday today with his first start of the season in place of Kelly, finished with eight points and five rebounds.

“Amile and Josh played well,” Krzyzewski said. “We got 18 and 9 from them. They just don’t know the defense and execution of the offense as well as Ryan [Kelly]. We’re not a great team with Ryan, we’re a really good team, but we’re better than our parts when we have them all together.”

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