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Jim Sumner On Duke-State!

Duke hasn't been very hospitable to North Carolina State lately. The Wolfpack hasn't won in Cameron since 1995, hasn't won with Mike Krzyzewski on the opposing bench since 1988. Ronald Reagan was president. It's been that long.

But State has at least been competitive in most of these contests. Duke's 76-52 win Saturday was over by halftime, largely decided in a seven-minute Duke blitz in which they outscored the visitors 21-2.

Nobody was much surprised. State is in free-fall right now, their once-promising season in tatters. Even the NIT seems out of reach for the 12-11 team, which dropped to 2-7 in the ACC.

Any remotely plausible scenario for an upset depended on State getting big games from their three leading scorers, Tracy Smith, Scott Wood and C.J. Leslie.

Instead, State got all of four points combined from the trio.

Leslie didn't even suit up, suspended for the game by Lowe for the ubiquitous violation of team rules. Lowe declined to elaborate in the post game.

Smith, who torched Duke for 23 points in State's win last season, scored only four this time, frustrated by Duke's length and athleticism and still bothered by a balky knee.

But what to make of Scott Wood, State's long-range bomber? Wood played 36 minutes and scored not a single point, missing all five field goals, four from beyond the arc. Kyle Singler simply smothered Wood. "He's a point of emphasis," Krzyzewski said of Wood. "We always need to know where he is. Kyle is 6-8 and kept his hands up. He didn't get open looks."

While State was struggling to a 24-point first half, Duke was clicking on all cylinders. Well, not all of them. The Devils struggled at the final line. But other than that, Duke put on a first-half clinic. Nolan Smith was the primary clinician, with 18 points, six assists and four rebounds by intermission. A triple-double seemed in reach.

But it wasn't a one-man show. Kyle Singler and Mason Plumlee each scored 10 in the first half, while Seth Curry added eight. Duke forced 12 turnovers, while getting just about anyone wearing Wolfpack red in foul trouble.

Duke trailed only once, at 2-0 but led only 10-8 after almost six minutes. Back-to-back 3s by Smith and Andre Dawkins fueled a big run, punctuated by some stunning fast-break baskets. My favorite was the 70-foot pass from Curry to Mason Plumlee, who caught the pass in traffic and slammed it home with authority. Curry's margin for error was about a silly centimeter and he put it right on the money.

Krzyzewski said the points off the defense "got the crowd going . . . . got the team excited, took it to the next level."

It was 53-24 at the half and could have been worse had Duke knocked down some freebies. And don't blame the post players. Singler and Curry were a combined 1-8.

The second half? Well, they had to play it. It's in the rule book, somewhere. With the pressure off, State showed improved execution although they never got any closer than 21. Nolan Smith got some much deserved rest, Duke emptied its bench and nobody got hurt.

It's easy to talk in the abstract about sharks smelling blood, knockout punches and putting heels to throats. But any honest coach will tell you that it's pretty hard to maintain your concentration with a 30-point lead and Duke fell prey to human nature. Smith scored only two points in the second half but that did give him another 20-point game.

Some words on Mason Plumlee, whose 16-point, 12-rebound, 3-block, 2-steal game was pretty darn impressive. Plumlee hit a couple of classic jump hooks in the second half, smooth and efficient. They don't all have to be highlight-reel quality.

This was no accident, Plumlee says. "Before the game we talked about running the floor, getting out and running and I got a couple of easy [baskets] like that. From there I did pretty good. The guys are looking for me and I'm converting and if you convert, they'll keep looking for you. [The jump hook] is a shot we've been working on a lot with Coach Wojo. It's a strong shot. They're always talking about taking strong shots. They'll get on you for missing if you're fading away, not taking a strong shot, they'll get on you. It's a strong shot and it fell for me tonight and I felt good."

Krzyzewski says that Plumlee is "leading from his strengths, rebounding, being a runner, a shot blocker. Do that and the scoring will come."

Lowe had an interesting comment about Nolan Smith and Singler. "Duke's best players are their hardest workers. They're never going to allow the rest of the team to not work."


Krzyzewski discussed Kyrie Irving's toe. He says that Duke is nowhere near making a decision on Irving's return. He characterized the toe as "progressing well" but added "you can only get so much healing in a cast. He's a long way from playing."

The plan is for a couple of weeks of therapy and go from there.

Tyler Thornton had three of Duke's nine turnovers. But Krzyzewski put the blame elsewhere, saying that his teammates weren't ready for his passes.

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