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NC State 87 Duke 75

State wins, and convincingly. Road life in the ACC is not easy.

Jan 11, 2015; Raleigh, NC, USA; Duke Blue Devils center Jahlil Okafor (15) shoots over North Carolina State Wolfpack forward Kyle Washington (32) during the first half at PNC Arena.
Jan 11, 2015; Raleigh, NC, USA; Duke Blue Devils center Jahlil Okafor (15) shoots over North Carolina State Wolfpack forward Kyle Washington (32) during the first half at PNC Arena.
Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

Winning is a lot more fun than losing, obviously, but sometimes losing is more instructive. So it was against North Carolina State.

We've been saying for a couple of weeks now that Duke is not playing as well as it was before the holiday break.

Partly that's just relying on three freshmen. We saw more tentativeness at Wake Forest than we'd seen previously, and while there wasn't as much of that, for a good bit of thegame, Duke clearly didn't match State's intensity.

The good news? At the end, despite having been down 19 with less than six minutes left, Duke rallied and at least briefly made State sweat. But it came too late.

The reality, as BC, Wake and now State have demonstrated, as Louisville learned in Chapel  Hill and everyone else has learned too, is that the ACC, hypercompetitive as always, is ruthless and unforgiveable.  You can say it's because your team is young, but no one cares about that while they're kicking your teeth in. It's just the way it is.

Duke will clearly have to toughen up. Jahlil Okafor played much better against State than he did against Wake Forest, scoring 23 points on 8-11 from the field and 7-11 from the line. He also had three steals, three blocks and just one turnover - much improved over the five against Wake.

But Justise Winslow shot 3-13 and had just four boards and fouled out.

Tyus Jones was 1-6 with four assists and one turnover.

Other than Okafor, in fact, only Quinn Cook shot reasonably well, hitting 6-13.

Duke's backcourt shot - Tyus Jones, Quinn Cook, Matt Jones and Rasheed Sulaimon - 14-39 overall. Add Winslow to that tally and it's 17-52.

Amile Jefferson, who came off the bench today to give Duke a better defensive matchup with State's starters (Matt Jones took his place), shot 1-2.

So other than Okafor, Duke shot 18-53.

A lot of that, again, is young players finding out that the ACC requires a constant sense of urgency and effort.

As you'll recall, State came into this season having lost TJ Warren, who was absolutely superb last year, and it wasn't clear how State would replace him.

We weren't particularly concerned. As we've said on several occasions now, Mark Gottfried has essentially had to rebuild almost every year at State, and he's done it really well.

His backcourt was already solid, but his frontcourt appears to be growing up too. State understandably had trouble with the prodigy/manchild Okafor, but not with anyone else. The Pack had plenty of dunks, 10 blocks, and shot 55% overall.

Just as one example, Beejay Anyay had 14 points, six rebounds, and four blocks - in 19 minutes.

Imagine what he could do at 260 instead of his listed 300.

Trevor Lacey is a much better athlete than we thought, and he's also a really good basketball player. He shot 8-13 and if you take out Quinn Cook's six shots, he outscored 75% of Duke's backcourt by himself.

So what now? Well, as we said in the beginning, defeat is an excellent teacher and few people work it as well as Mike Krzyzewski.

Better figure it out quick: after Miami's visit to Cameron on the 13th, Duke gets a trip to #5 Louisville and a game at home against a struggling Pitt before taking on, in order and on the road, #24 St. John's, #13 Notre Dame and #3 Virginia.

The ACC is never easy, but right now, it's about as easy as driving a funny car through West Virginia. You better make sure you can handle the curves and plenty are coming.

Speaking of Virginia, we've hinted at this previously but not said it outright. Given Kentucky's erratic play and Duke's imminent back to basics phase, if we had a vote we'd put Virginia #1 and not because it's an ACC thing.

Kentucky and Duke might have more talent, but no one in the country is playing better, game in and game out, than Virginia. The defense is a given, but the offense has improved dramatically. If this continues, Tony Bennett should get consideration for National Coach Of The Year.

Virginia will move up to #2 tomorrow, or at least should, and we'd hope they get some #1 votes.

As for Duke, it's time to get back in the gym and to realize that without a commitment to effort and defense, there are no guarantees, and certainly no sympathy for the young roster.