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Duke Hammers NC State In Cameron

A big win for a team still recovering from Covid

NC State v Duke
 DURHAM, NC - JANUARY 15: Jericole Hellems #4 of the North Carolina State Wolfpack fights for the ball against Trevor Keels #1 of the Duke Blue Devils in the second half at Cameron Indoor Stadium on January 15, 2022 in Durham, North Carolina.
Photo by Lance King/Getty Images

Duke spotted NC State a couple of early seven-point leads before roaring back for an 88-73 win in Cameron Indoor Stadium on a cold Saturday afternoon.

The win runs Duke’s record to 14-2 overall, 4-1 in the ACC, while dropping the Pack to 9-9, 2-5.

Duke leveraged its size advantage to take and maintain control of the game. Paolo Banchero led everyone with 21 points, while adding eight rebounds and four assists, but with four turnovers. But centers Mark Williams-19 points, 11 rebounds, 8 blocks and Theo John-10 points, 2 rebounds, 2 blocks—did more than their part. The trio of big men shot 21-27 from the field helping Duke to a 58 percent shooting game from the field.

“Their front line was tremendous,” State coach Kevin Keatts said. ”Williams was “tremendous. I thought he was the difference in the game. Banchero was as good as advertised.”

Duke also shot 58 percent from the foul line and allowed State to turn 22 offensive rebounds into 16 second-chance points. But even with those the Wolfpack shot only 41 percent from the field, with leading scorers Terquavion Smith and Dereon Seaborne combining for 15 for 38.

Duke knew that State crashed their offensive boards about as well as any team in the ACC and the Blue Devils never really got a handle on it. Their starting center Ebenezer Dowunona came into the game averaging 3.8 points per game and had six in the first five minutes, four of them on two offensive rebounds. In fact Dowunona had one of the stranger stat lines I’ve ever seen, nine offensive rebounds and no defensive rebounds.

Mike Krzyzewski called Duke’s defensive rebounding “the weak point of our game.”

The Wolfpack led 9-2, 13-6 and 15-8.

Trevor Keels explained the slow start.

“We started off a little sluggish. Sometimes that’s going to happen. We got it together. Our captain Wendell got us calmed down.”

Duke came back on a jumper by Wendell Moore, a tip and 3-pointer by Keels and took their first lead at 17-15 on a dunk by John. State’s last lead was at 21-20 before Duke went on a 16-6 run to get some breathing room.

“We got a little extended defensively,” Keatts said, “and once we got extended defensively, they were able to get some stuff inside.”

Keatts added that Duke’s transition offense was the key to Duke’s run late in the first half.

Even the 7-1 Williams was running the floor and scoring in transition.

Trevor Keels had a lot to do with that. He didn’t have a great shooting game—5-13. But he had nine assists and five steals to go along with his 12 points.

“I feel like I played a good all-around game,” Keels said. “I feel like I set the tone physically getting those five steals. Offensively, just reading what they were doing. Mark had the hot hand and I was just trying to find him.”

Krzyzewski said it was Keels’ best game since the beginning of the season, citing several assists to Williams when the outcome was still in doubt.

Duke also got a huge lift from backup center Theo John, who came into the game having played only 21 minutes in four ACC contests.

“Theo really contributed,” Krzyzewski said, “especially in that first half where we got a little bit of a lead. It gives us what we had hoped to have all season long, a veteran five-man in there. I think today he was looking just to compete and it just came to him.”

Duke led 45-36 at the half.

Williams dominated the early part of the second half. He got six of his eight blocks after intermission including a monster block on Casey Morsell.

“It was satisfying,” Williams admitted. “Just hit the ball in the right spot and it hit the ground in about the second row.”

Williams added that his role on the team starts “on the defensive end, just protecting the rim.”

Williams fought through contact for three and-ones. He missed the free throw twice. But last season he likely doesn’t finish against that contact.

Williams scored seven points in the first 5:16 of the second half.

A Joey Baker 3 put Duke up 64-45 with 12:11 left. But State kept pressing, kept pushing on offense and Duke got a little sloppy: Banchero threw a cross-court pass into about the fifth row on one occasion. State got the deficit into single digits at 80-71 and 82-73. But Duke refocused and closed the game scoring the final six points.

Wendell Moore didn’t have a great game but Krzyzewski said he was Duke’s best player down the stretch and still isn’t back to 100 percent. Moore had 15 points and 4 rebounds but turned it over four times.

Smith led State with 19 points, three more than Seabron.

Krzyzewski said Duke is still trending in the right direction but still isn’t back to where it was before the COVID shutdown and isn’t where it’s going to be.

Something to look forward to.

Poll

Player Of The Game vs. NC State

This poll is closed

  • 1%
    Wendell Moore
    (7 votes)
  • 0%
    AJ Griffin
    (2 votes)
  • 2%
    Paolo Banchero
    (13 votes)
  • 91%
    Mark Williams
    (447 votes)
  • 1%
    Trevor Keels
    (9 votes)
  • 0%
    Joey Baker
    (1 vote)
  • 0%
    Theo John
    (3 votes)
  • 1%
    Bates Jones
    (5 votes)
  • 0%
    Jeremy Roach
    (3 votes)
490 votes total Vote Now