Mason Plumlee, Seth Curry and Quinn Cook combined for 77 points as the Duke Blue Devils fought off a furious second half rally by North Carolina State, hanging on for a 98-85 victory.
The win was sweet revenge for the Blue Devils, who were knocked off by the very same Wolfpack team in an 84-76 loss in Raleigh back on January 12th.
The game was an unusual one. All started out well for the Blue Devils, who shot over sixty percent in the first twenty minutes and ended the half with a massive 58-37 lead. With a new half came a new ballgame, however, and Duke ended up hanging on for dear life by the end of it.
NC State, facing a massive uphill battle, connected on 12 of their first 14 shots in the second half and cut the lead to single digits by the 5:16 mark on a Richard Howell layup. Howell and fellow forward CJ Leslie would eventually foul out, but the Wolfpack continued to claw at Duke’s lead, cutting it all the way down to 93-85 on a Scott Wood three-pointer. This, however, would be the closest Wolfpack would get the rest of the way as they missed all five of their last shots while Duke finished the job at the free-throw line.
The first half was probably the best I’ve seen Duke play all season. The loss of Josh Hairston led to some changes in the rotation, with Mason Plumlee staying on the court for the full twenty minutes (which he would again do in the second half) and a bump in minutes for Redshirt Freshman Alex Murphy. This didn’t appear to mess with the Blue Devils, however, as they put together 58 points and built a 20+ point halftime lead for the second consecutive game. They made 10 3-pointers in the half as well. This was, in most ways, a perfect half. Yes, it showed how dangerous of a team this is when they’re playing at a near perfect level, but virtually every team in basketball is dangerous when they’re playing at a near perfect level. Did I believe that Duke was going to replicate the performance and beat down NC State by 30+ points? No, but I sure as hell didn’t think it was going to get as interesting as it did.
The second half was NC State’s version of a near-perfect game. The shots that weren’t falling in the first half started falling, the shots that Duke was hitting in the first half suddenly weren’t falling, and the Wolfpack were playing every bit as well and energized as they were when they knocked Duke off in Raleigh.
Basically, this was a case of both teams giving each other their best shot.
Duke’s shot was just a little bit better.
Box score (via SI.com)