Duke defeated North Carolina State 98-85 Thursday night, using a barrage of 3-pointers to open a huge first-half lead and holding off a spirited Wolfpack comeback-attempt by nailing clutch foul shots down the stretch.
Mike Krzyzewski called it a "great ACC basketball game. What a performance by both teams. I don't know it we can play any harder or any better than we did at the beginning of the game."
Duke played without forwards Ryan Kelly and Josh Hairston, while the Wolfpack was missing star point Lorenzo Brown.
Duke never trailed. Seth Curry said following the game that Duke has been concentrating on getting off to better starts and it's hard to have a much better start. Rasheed Sulaimon sparked Duke to a 6-2 lead, then a Mason Plumlee dunk prompted Mark Gottfried to call a timeout only 1:25 into the game.
It didn't get any better for the visitors. A 5:54 field-goal drought for State, coupled with lights-out shooting by Duke, enabled the Blue Devils to build a 20-5 lead six minutes into the game.
"That was as well as I've seen Duke play," Gottfried said. "For the first 8-10 minutes, they were sensational."
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The Wolfpack stabilized but couldn't get the margin under a dozen points during the remainder of the first half.
Duke closed the half on a 13-4, with Curry scoring Duke's last 10 points.
It was 58-37 at intermission. Duke made 10-of-17 from beyond the arc, shot 61.3 percent overall and turned it over twice. Curry had 18 points, Plumlee 15 and Quinn Cook 12, the latter on four-for-four 3-point shooting.
"We got some good looks and were just being aggressive," Curry said of the first half. "I felt like I had an advantage. I had a few chances to score and knocked down some shots early. It was pretty simple. I had some good matchups."
Curry also said that Duke had no illusions about the second half. "You can't let up on them, knowing how that team can score. We wanted to keep the pedal to the medal."
The first half was played with a flow and rhythm largely absent from the second stanza. The officials called five fouls in the first 1:48 of the second half and never stopped tooting the whistle.
"The first half felt like it was up-and-down, fast-paced and fun," Curry said. "The second half, it seemed like they called a foul on every possession, for both teams. It was frustrating but you have to play through it."
The whistles created a game within a game. With all the injuries, Duke was down to eight recruited players and State seven, and that includes Duke's Marshall Plumlee and State's Jordan Vandenberg, neither of whom gets major minutes.
So, as Mark Gottfried said, "They went right at us, we went right at them." The goal was to get the other team in foul trouble, without getting in foul trouble yourself. Both teams did much better on the first part of the equation then they did on the second part.
Both teams were in the bonus by the mid-point of the second half. Duke's Amile Jefferson picked up two fouls in a span of a single second.
Both coaches spent as much time massaging foul trouble as anything else.
Duke was as cold from the outside in the second half as they were hot in the first half. But they kept going inside, kept going to the foul line and kept scoring.
"You can't expect to shoot that well all the time and you have to find other ways," Plumlee said. "I thought we did a good job of getting inside and getting to the line."
They needed the points. The Wolfpack made 10 consecutive field goals, cutting Duke's lead to 82-69, with 7:11 left.
Duke seemingly put away State several times down the stretch. A Plumlee layup made it 84-69. But Richard Howell led a 6-0 run that cut the margin to single-digits for the first time since 13-5.
However, Howell fouled out with 3:41 left, trying to clear space with an elbow to Plumlee's jaw. Duke got the lead back to 13 but wobbled a bit under State's press, turning it over twice.
Plumlee made a huge defensive play with 1:21 remaining and Duke up 91-82. Plumlee had picked up four fouls in the second half after a foul-free opening stanza but challenged C.J. Leslie inside, blocking a Leslie lay-up.
"I was happy to get a stop," Plumlee said. "He's one of the better scorers in our league. He's so athletic. It was a big play. They had been scoring on us, so we needed a stop."
Cook grabbed the rebound and the frustrated Leslie fouled Cook, joining Howell on the bench with five fouls. Cook made both foul shots, for 93-82.
Scott Wood cut the lead to eight with a 3-pointer but Duke scored the final five points for the victory.
Plumlee ended with 30 points, followed by Curry's 26 and Cook's 21. State had five players in double figures, led by Howell with 23. Plumlee and Howell each had nine rebounds, as Duke edged the bigger Wolfpack 33-31 on the glass.
Duke missed all seven of its 3-point attempts in the second half, but made up for it by making 22-of-28 foul shots in the second half.
Duke was 32-41 from the line for the game, State 11-19. Twenty-eight fouls were called in the second half and 10 of the 13 players who notched double-figure minutes ended the game with at least three fouls. Howell and Leslie were the only players to foul out, however.
Krzyzewski said Mason Plumlee "was such a man tonight. I think he's playing as well as anyone in the country."
Duke moves to 4-2 without Ryan Kelly. Krzyzewski said Kelly continues to improve but re-asserted that there is no ETA for his return. Krzyzewski also said that Josh Hairston is improving and might play Sunday at Boston College.
Speaking of Sunday, Duke is still planning on flying to Boston Saturday afternoon, hopefully after the blizzard has stopped and the airport has re-opened. Otherwise, it could get interesting.
The victory runs Duke's record to 20-2. This is Duke's 48th 20-win season, the 17th straight and the 29th for Krzyzewski. This ties him with Lute Olson and Bob Knight for third place, one season behind Dean Smith and five behind Jim Boeheim.
Krzyzewski is now 48-21 against NC State. Duke has won 15 straight against State in Cameron.
Gottfried said that Scott Wood suffered a strained groin in the game but battled through it.