How do you swallow an elephant?
One bite at a time.
Duke’s NCAA-Tournament aspiration is a big elephant to swallow but Duke took a big bite Saturday afternoon, defeating an admittedly short-handed NC State team 69-53 in Raleigh’s PNC Arena.
Duke did it on the defensive end of the floor. The Blue Devils scored 87 and 89 points in its last two games and lost them both.
“We’ve been working the last few days on our defense,” Mike Krzyzewski said, “and pretty much that’s all we’ve been working on. We played really good defense today and by working on our defense we also got to more physical and in the first half our defense was outstanding and we got loose balls and we won some scrums.”
Duke again started twin towers Matt Hurt and Mark Williams. Despite what you heard on TV, there was never any chance that Hurt wasn’t going to start. A paperwork error.
But the tandem performed at a high level, on both ends of the court.
Williams got the Blue Devils off to a good start with a bucket underneath and two blocks in the first two minutes.
“I was just trying to do my job,” Williams said, and that just happened to be blocks.”
Hurt was also doing his job. With Williams down low, Hurt could roam the perimeter, where he devastated NC State.
Hurt hits 3s to put Duke up 5-2 and 8-4.
Then Duke’s defense took over. The Blue Devils led 11-10, when they went on a decisive 14-0 run in which the Wolfpack missed two shots and turned it over five times in a scoreless span of 4:42.
Four of those turnovers were the result of Duke steals, two by Wendell Moore.
“Practices have gone really well over the last couple of days,” Hurt said. “Our defense hasn’t been good the last two games and we tried to switch up the ball-screen coverages and it worked out tonight. That’s why coach is so good at this. He makes adjustments.”
Hurt continued to shoot well, hitting a 3 to make it 19-10, then a short jumper for 21-10.
Hurt sat down with his second foul. Krzyzewski said that he was prepared to put him back in but it wasn’t necessary. Jaemyn Brakefield was one reason for that, playing with a verve and a confidence that we haven’t seen from him lately.
Duke led 39-17 late in the first half before two State buckets made it 39-21 at intermission.
We all remember how much trouble Duke had holding onto leads against Notre Dame earlier this week. But there would be no repeat. Hurt scored five points off the bat and Duke kept the lead in the 20-point range most of the second half.
It did get a little sloppy late. D.J. Steward hit a 3 to give Duke a 66-54 lead with just under seven minutes left. Duke only scored three points the rest of the way, Hurt’s sixth 3-pointer. But State couldn’t make much of a dent in their deficit, their 7-0 closing run way too little, way too late.
Hurt ended the game with 24 points, hitting 8 of 10 from the field, 6 of 7 from downtown, both foul shots.
“My teammates did a great job finding me,” Hurt said, “whether it was in transition or whether it was pick-and-pop. All the credit goes to them.”
Williams was Duke’s second-leading scorer, with 13 points, hitting a mid-range jumper and three of four foul shots. Williams added five blocked shots.
“Working with the coaches, making those right plays, making the right passes, whether to shoot or attack, setting screens. My teammates find me at the right places to get those easy finishes.”
The win puts Duke back at .500, with more work to do,
“We just try to keep our head down,” Hurt said,” just keep working every day, don’t take a day off, not try to listen to the outside. . . . The most important thing is us. If we just focus on ourselves, getting better every day . . . win the day.”
Krzyzewski said Hurt has the right approach.
“They’ve really worked hard,” he said of his team. “They’ve been enthusiastic, they’ve been upbeat. You just have to keep doing it and don’t pay attention to anyone else. Something good will happen.”
Steward joined Hurt and Williams in double figures with 12 points and led Duke with 4 assists. Moore had 3 steals and 3 assists.
State outrebounded Duke 32-27. But the Wolfpack had 18 turnovers, got to the foul line only 9 times and hit 2 of 9 from beyond the arc.
Jalen Johnson had another underwhelming performance, with three points. Krzyzewski said that Johnson is still not responding well to the “really physical” nature of the college game. “We had him in a couple of times and he was knocked back.” Krzyzewski also noted that Williams’ emergence is making it harder to get Johnson on the court and Brakefield earned more playing time. But Krzyzewski added that Johnson “will have opportunities” down the road.
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- BOX SCORE (PDF)
- POSTGAME NOTES (PDF)
- COACH K QUOTES (PDF)
- DUKE PLAYER QUOTES (PDF)
- PHOTO GALLERY
Player Of The Game vs. NC State
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