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State 85, Duke 80

Duke lost to State in the ACC Tournament because, quite simply, they didn't deserve to win. State played better, shot better, defended better, passed better and communicated better than did Duke. add those things up and you see why State played like champions and Duke played like something less than that.After the game, Coach K said the team's defense has really been lacking for a couple of weeks now, and he's right. That has been the key to this team's success this season, and they aren't doing it. He pointed to communication as the primary flaw and, well, he would know.

State ran the pick and roll over and over, and Duke did a horrible job of switching, leaving State with either layups or, in the second half, open threes. Brandon Costner did the bulk of the work in the first half, and in the second, Engin Atsur was a surgeon. He hit jumpers, penetrated, passed - basically orchestrated State's attack perfectly.

In the earlier game, State didn't have Atsur, and Duke ripped the tentative ballhandling apart. Not this time.

For the game, State shot 60.8%.

It's not as if everything was bad. Duke played without Gerald Henderson, which hurt, but got some good stretches out of Greg Paulus, Josh McRoberts, and Marty Pocius, who had his best all-around game for Duke with 14 points on 5-5 shooting in 17 minutes. DeMarcus Nelson got nine rebounds and had some tremendous offensive drives.

But there's not getting around that it was a disappointing performance by a team capable of playing much, much better.

On the other hand, while obviously we'd prefer Duke had won, we're very happy for State and their passionate fan base. They've been unhappy for years, with Herb Sendek seemingly unable to compete with Duke. Sidney Lowe has taken a thin roster and taught them to play with passion and verve. We'll be pulling for them to win this tournament. They're a long shot, but big deal. They've had some great games this year and the future looks very, very bright.

Finally, one more note. While we're obviously disappointed, let's take a step back and look at things. This team is considered by many to be a disappointment, an off team, and off year, whatever. But keep in mind that even now it's a young team, and can finish no worse than 22-11 with an NCAA bid. If that's a disappointing year, send it Clemson's way. Lots of teams would be thrilled.