DURHAM, N.C. — North Carolina State played like the basketball team many thought they could be in the first half, but then it came crashing down after halftime.
Duke point guard Greg Paulus orchestrated an impressive offensive attack in the second half to help the No. 3-ranked Blue Devils dominate the Wolfpack en route to a 92-72 victory Thursday at Cameron Indoor Stadium. NC State led at halftime 46-37.
"I really can't believe that happened," NC State senior Gavin Grant said. "I thought it was really going to go down to the wire if anything, and it was going to be won in the last couple of minutes. I can't believe it got out of hand like that."
NC State fell to 13-7 overall and 2-4 in the ACC with Wake Forest up next at the RBC Center on Sunday. Duke improved to 18-1 overall and 6-0 in the conference.
"I don't think we got tired, but we relaxed a couple of times and lost our focus on things," NC State coach Sidney Lowe said. "They had their run and got the momentum going, so it was tough to get it back.
"They knew what they had to do to get the game back in their favor."
Paulus finished with a team-high 22 points thanks to 5-of-8 shooting from 3-point land, and he added six assists and three steals.
"Greg Paulus is a pretty good player and I was just trying to chase him around," NC State freshman point guard Javier Gonzalez said. "I got hit by a couple of screens, and he hit some big 3s for them. I was just trying to do my best chasing him around."
Paulus wasn't alone in getting hot in the second half.
Kyle Singler scored 12 of his 19 points, and Gerald Henderson also had 12 of his 18 points after halftime. The Blue Devils outscored the Wolfpack 55-26 in the second half.
Duke had 17 points off turnovers, finished with 14 more shot attempts and shot 65.6 percent from the field in the second half.
"We can't play too much better in the second half," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "We were down by 10 in rebounding, and we out-rebounded them for the game. Our 3-point shooting was sensational in the second half (7 for 11). It was because we shared the ball."
The first half was surprisingly dominated by NC State with only free throws keeping Duke within striking distance — the Blue Devils went 13 of 18 at the line.
Grant set the tone with 16 of his game-high 26 points in the first half and Brandon Costner was a spark off the bench with 12 of his 14 points. The Wolfpack controlled the tempo and shot a glistening 57.7 percent from the field.
"We punched it inside and were able to get baskets inside, and play inside-out," Lowe said. "In the second half, we didn't throw it in there."
NC State made its move with a 15-3 run to open up a 30-21 lead, capped by a Grant 3-pointer. The senior small forward scored nine points during the run.
"Grant gave them such a verve early, and Costner did," Krzyzewski said. "We couldn't turn them over and then we started fouling them. We didn't play a very intelligent first half and they took advantage of it."
The wheels starting to come off quickly in the second half for the Wolfpack, with Henderson becoming more aggressive going to the basket, combined with Paulus hitting back-to-back 3-pointers to give Duke a 52-51 lead with 16:13 remaining in the game.
The crowd reached a crescendo when Paulus dished to Singler for a dunk to give the Blue Devils a 59-55 lead. It was part of a 15-1 run that helped knock the Wolfpack out.
"It was a lot of mental mistakes," Lowe said. "The sets that we ran, we had our big guy open three straight times in the lane and we didn't throw it to him. We took too bad shots, actually."
Putting together back-to-back quality half's is the next step in NC State's development. After getting blown out in previous road games against Michigan State, North Carolina and Clemson, progress was made. Duke showed in the second half how much more work is needed for NC State.
"We got to the point where we can play a team like this and get that lead at the half," Lowe said. "Now, we have to get to the point where we come out in the second half in that first five minutes and really increase that lead. Take ours [energy level] even up to another level. That is what we are trying to get."