Duke completely destroyed NC State in the ACC Tournament, winning 77-53, and it wasn't nearly that close. It was a performance that left us reaching for anything comparable in the past. Villanova '78? St. John's in 1992? Michigan '92? In the fall, not the title game, after Michigan woofed about how Duke "stole" their title.
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It was a stunning performance over a team which some people have pegged as a potential dark horse or Cinderella in March and it serves notice: whatever else happens in Greensboro, this team has another gear and it's one most teams can't come close to.
Where to even start?
Duke threw a few wrinkles at State, including a three-quarter trap which slowed down Cat Barber considerably and a K version of a matchup zone.
Trevor Lacey made clear just how confusing it was:
"They just made sure me and Cat didn’t beat them. At one point it looked like a 1-3-1, and then a 2-3, and then it was – I don’t know. Man to man? I don’t know."
And that was after the game.
That was part of it, but another part of it was just that everyone who played for Duke played brilliantly. And when your star player, Jahlil Okafor, can afford to sit for extended minutes because Marshall Plumlee is having a career night, well, that's how things went Thursday in Greensboro.
Plumlee went nuts. He had dunk after dunk, he played with a barely concealed ferocity, and his emotions, which at times trip him up, just fed into his performance.
Fellow reserve Grayson Allen also played like a star, driving, shooting, passing, blocking shots - the hesitant player we saw earlier in the year is gone, replaced by a confident, versatile, athletic guard.
Amile Jefferson had less statistical impact on the game than usual, but had one very pivotal role: he screened Cat Barber to free Tyus Jones as he brought the ball upcourt.
No one warned Barber, who ran full speed into Jefferson and then fell in a heap to the floor.
He didn't return to the game and we haven't heard an update on his condition yet.
Here's how well things went for Duke, a team that hasn't done well with foul shots this year: Duke shot 92.3% from the line, 12-13, with Matt Jones providing the only miss.
State did have some bright spots, at least in the second half. Abdul-Malik Abu was aggressive and got loose for some easy baskets. Ralston Turner was 6-10. And on a couple of sequences, State was terrific on the boards, even if the Pack had trouble hitting the shots.
All in all though it was Duke's night, and what a night it was.
On Friday, Duke faces Notre Dame for the right to play for the championship.
Don't expect a repeat because you just don't play at that level very often. In fact, we would expect a much more difficult game, more of a grinder.
- No. 2 Duke Rolls Past NC State 77-53
- Box Score: Duke 77, NC State 53
- Photos: Duke 77, NC State 53
- Notes: Duke 77, NC State 53
- Quotes: Duke 77, NC State 53
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