State played at Duke with a still-recuperating Ryan Harrow and a missing CJ Leslie (suspended) and the results were no surprise as Duke won, 76-52.
They would've won if they didn't score a point after halftime, which was good because the offense struggled mightily in the second half.Â As Nolan Smith said, â[In the first half], we played the way we wanted to play.Â We came out, played defense, and we were playing together and hitting shots.Â It was just pretty much a near-perfect first half that we played.Â It was just fun playing.Â [In the second half], guys got comfortable.Â Of course we wanted to stay on them and keep playing, but we didnât.Â Thatâs something weâll have to get better at and just grow up as a team.â
The big performance came from Mason Plumlee, whoÂ finished with 16 points and 12 boards and was 7-8 from the floor.Â He also helped limit Tracy Smith, recently a thorn in Duke's side, to four points.
Duke used two big runs in the first half to take State out and had a 29 point lead by halftime.Â And as devastating as Duke was, honestly, State was just awful.Â If Richard Howell hadn't scored 12 points in the first half, things could have gotten very ugly indeed.
It's a mystery to us how State could be so bad. We understandÂ they had some personnel issues, but still, it's hard to argue that they really even showed up in the first half.
To their credit, they did played better in the second, but by then it was too late.
The question to us now is where things go for the Pack.Â this was supposed to be their big breakthrough year under Sidney Lowe. Picked to finish fourth in the conference, State has fallen to 12-11 and 2-7 in the ACC, good for 11th place.
More importantly, they seem to have lost their way. This is a team which has gone rudderless at the worst possible time, for themselves but also for their coach.
El Sid is a beloved figure at State and a direct tie to the Valvano era, a time whichÂ State fans have never gotten over.
Even though Lowe hasÂ earned far more patience than his predecessor, this season is likely to prove fatal to his career at State.
For Duke, though attention wavered in the second half, there were some very good things in this game.Â We already discussed Mason Plumlee's excellent performance, but he andÂ brother Miles combined for 19 points and 18 boards. That's a very solid post presence.
Tyler Thornton, in his second start, continues to play well and to apply terrific pressure on the ball: State's point guards combined for seven turnovers. It wasn't all Thornton's doing, but he was undeniably a pain on defense.
Seth Curry had another nice game off the bench, shooting 3-5 from three-point range and playing with alertness and alacrity.
For the game, Duke held State to 39.8% and forced 16 turnovers, though it seemed like more.
But the best news was the play of Mason. Over the last several weeks, he's become a dominant rebounder.Â Yet he has often been hesitant on offense and reluctant at times to shoot. That was certainly not the case against State, nor was it against Maryland. As a matter fact, in the last two games, Plumlee has shot 13-15, which is superb, and grabbed 24 boards.
Not everything is perfect, of course. Plumlee was just 2-7 from the line and is currently shooting just 40% on uncontested free throws.Â Clearly it's psychological -- the harder he tries, the harder it gets.
As a team, Duke barely cleared 50% from the line (State should be happy: Duke gave up 15 points from the line and hit just six shots from the floor in the second half.Â clearly, things could've been much, much worse).
Immediately after the game, attention naturally turned to Carolina.Â It's always interesting, but with the uproar surrounding Larry Drew's departure, it should be very interesting indeed.
The Tar Heels get their first test on Sunday against Florida State's rugged defense, and a lot is riding on Kendall Marshall's ability to play a lot of minutes and DexterÂ Strickland's ability to back him up.