Asked about Miles Plumlees' diminishing PT following the Virginia game, Mike Krzyzewski indicated that Plumlee would get his chance against North Carolina State's big, athletic front line.
He was telling Plumlee the same thing. Miles said that his teammates were encouraging him and telling him to be ready.
Plumlee did indeed get his chance and he made the most of it, hitting the boards with abandon and helping Duke to a whopping 44-34 rebounding advantage, as Duke captured its first ACC road win, 92-78.
The Wolfpack badly needed a signature win to keep alive their fading NCAA hopes and they did handle Duke with relative ease last season. Kyle Singler said Duke still remembered the setback and was still bothered by it.
State came into tonight's game leading the ACC in rebounding differential at 11 per game. Any chance they had of pulling off the upset started with controlling the glass.
They also needed to get off the good start, the better to energize the large home crowd, announced at 19,387. That didn't happen, either. Ryan Kelly, making the short trip to his hometown, buried a 3-pointer thirty seconds into the game. Duke never trailed. Soon, it was 7-2, then 11-4.
Losing coach Sidney Lowe said "that's what a good team does. Come in with an edge early and take the crowd out of it."
It was still close at 16-14, when Duke went on an 11-2 run, with seven of the points coming from Nolan Smith.
It was 42-28 at the half. Krzyzewski thought the margin could have been larger. "I thought we were playing better than the score. Kyle was only 1-7. I thought we could have been up, 16, 18, maybe 20."
Fouls were one factor reigning in Duke. Andre Dawkins got off to a spectacular start, scoring six points in the first 3:33 and all were two-point shots. But Dawkins picked up his second foul with 11 minutes left in the half. Seth Curry picked up his second foul a few seconds later. Singler also picked up two fouls in the half.
So, Krzyzewski had to massage his lineup and bit. Fortunately, freshmen Tyler Thornton and Josh Hairston gave Duke solid minutes when called on. Thornton hit his first 3 since the Colgate game, giving Duke a 32-18 lead. Hairston picked up a couple of offensive rebounds and hit a jumper.
Lowe made an interesting change at halftime, coming out with a jumbo lineup of Tracy Smith, C.J. Leslie, Richard Howell, Scott Wood and Ryan Harrow, the 6-6 Wood playing guard. Lowe said that State needed Wood on the floor to mount a comeback and he was worried about the possibility of Singler getting Wood in foul trouble.
It certainly worked for a while. Wood, held to three points in the first half, scored nine points in less than seven minutes. State used a 9-0 run to claw back into the game. Singler said that Duke had some trouble finding passing lanes against the bigger State team. "We didn't come out in the second half and play as well. It took us some time to adjust. But it's all on us. We did a better job as the second half went along."
Every time Duke needed a basket, somebody stepped up. At 48-43, Mason Plumlee converted a tip-in. Miles duplicated that feat to make it 52-43, with 15:24 left. After a Wood 3 cut the lead to six, Nolan Smith got a steal and assisted on a Miles dunk. Wood cut it to five with another 3 but Miles and then Mason grabbed offensive rebounds to keep alive a possession that ended with two Nolan Smith foul shots.
Within minutes the lead was back to double digits and State never again got closer than eight.
Ryan Kelly says the rebounding flurry was a key. "It's inspiring to see a teammate go up and rip an offensive rebound and put it in."
State hasn't given up 92 points in a game since Duke did it three seasons ago. Lowe says his team was beaten in several areas. "We got hurt on the pick and roll. We didn't get up there and do what we needed to do. Duke is one of the best teams in the country at coming back at you. When you miss, they just attack. They hurt us tonight on the O boards, they hurt us in transition. When we got a stop, they got second chances. They spread you out and when they have the lead late, they just know how to execute."
In the end, Duke's inside presence proved to be too much for the home team. Mason Plumlee ended the game with seven points, 10 rebounds and six blocks. He now has 56 rebounds and 15 blocks in five ACC games. Brother Miles snagged eight rebounds, Singler nine and Kelly eight. Krzyzewski said it was "the best our big guys have played all year. Being able to hold our own on the boards was the key to the win. Miles was terrific."
Duke has won 35 of its last 37 against NC State and has won 23 straight games in the state of North Carolina.
Nolan Smith ended with 22 points, Singler with 18, 14 in the second half. Duke has had at least one player with at least 20 points in last 13 games. Smith has had at least 18 points in each of his last nine games.
Josh Hairston's first-half field goal gave him his first ACC points.
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