Quick hits and notes from NC State's lopsided 76-52 loss at No. 5 Duke in front of 9,314 fans at Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham, N.C., Saturday evening.
Play of the game
Duke was up 10-8 five minutes into the game when the wheels came off, and no play better exemplified the way the rest of the first half went more than when Duke sophomore center Mason Plumlee beat everyone down the court after a missed jumper from NC State sophomore wing Scott Wood for a fast break dunk. Plumlee was assisted by Duke redshirt sophomore guard Seth Curry. Plumlee got a little push from behind from NC State sophomore center DeShawn Painter on the dunk, but Plumlee did not make the free throw for a three-point play. Neverthless, Plumlee's dunk gave the Devils a 20-8 lead with 11:23 left and was part of a 21-2 run for Duke over 6:30 that quickly put the game out of reach.
Highlight of the game
NC State was trailing 27-10 with 9:41 left when freshman guard Ryan Harrow came close to losing the ball out of bounds. The ref did not call it however, much to the Duke's bench chagrin, and Harrow tried to save the ball back in bounds. Instead he turned it over to Duke senior guard Nolan Smith who raced down the court for an uncontested tomahawk dunk to give Duke a 29-10 lead with 9:38 left in the first half and forced Wolfpack head coach Sidney Lowe to call a 30-second timeout.
Player of the game
Plumlee may be breaking out of an offensive slump. He went through a stretch where he failed to reach double-figures scoring in 14 of 15 games before scoring 12 points and grabbing 11 rebounds on 6-of-7 shooting at Maryland last Wednesday. Plumlee scored 16 points on 7-of-8 shooting against the Wolfpack and added 12 rebounds and three blocked shots. That was Plumlee's second highest scoring game of the year and the fifth double-double of both this season and his career.
What is going on in the first half?
NC State was blown out in the first half in every facet. The Pack trailed 53-24 at the break after allowing Duke to shoot a mind-boggling 20 of 31 from the field for 64.5 percent. Only Florida State's second half when the Noles shot 69.2 percent had a team shot better over 20 minutes against State. For Duke, that was their fourth best shooting performance in a half this year and the best for the first half. The 53 points were also a season-high for halftime.
Duke outrebounded NC State 18-16, amazingly including 5-4 on the offensive glass. The Devils rebounded five of their 11 misses in the first half. NC State had 12 first half turnovers compared to just four for Duke. NC State had fewer than 12 turnovers in an entire game nine times this year.
The first half was also the fourth time this season an ACC opponent scored at least 50 points in a half against the Wolfpack. The 29-point margin surpassed Wisconsin's 23-point lead at halftime for the largest deficit NC State has had in a game this year.
The first half has become a problem of late for NC State. In the last three games NC State has been down 13, 13 and 29 points respectively at North Carolina, Virginia Tech at home and Saturday at Duke.
Second half was better
Granted it did not matter much since the game was lopsided beyond reach at halftime, but NC State's second half was better. Duke made just 6 of 31 shots for 19.4 percent, by far their worst shooting performance in one half this year. Their previous worst had been when they made 9 of 32 shots for 28.1 percent in the first half at Florida State Jan. 12. The Devils' 23-second half points against State was also a season-low for a half.
NC State outscored Duke 28-23 in the second half. State was led by sophomore forward Richard Howell, who scored a career-high 18 points on 9-of-11 shooting from the field and added five rebounds in 32 minutes. Freshman guard Lorenzo Brown added 15 points on 6-of-13 shooting to go with nine rebounds and six assists, both team-highs. Painter scored 10 points, a new career-high for a conference game.
One freshman back, one freshman gone
Saturday marked the return of Harrow, who had missed the last two games because of sickness. Harrow though did not look like he was back at full speed. He struggled mightily in the first half with zero points and four turnovers. He finished with those same numbers for the game and also had four fouls in 15 minutes.
Not on the bench Saturday was freshman forward C.J. Leslie, who was suspended for the game for a violation of team rules. Leslie was averaging 10.7 points and 7.3 rebounds per game and had a team-high 33 blocked shots this year before the Duke contest.
Harrow was not the only player clearly not at full strength. It appears that senior forward Tracy Smith's knee continues to bother him. He made just 2 of 9 shots and finished with four points and six rebounds in 20 minutes. That was his fewest playing time since returning from knee surgery Jan. 1, and it was also the first time since his return Smith failed to score in double figures.
What the loss means
NC State is now 12-11 on the year and 2-7 in the ACC. With Miami's overtime win over Virginia Saturday afternoon, NC State is now alone in 11th place in the ACC. Duke improves to 21-2 and 8-1 in the ACC and remains alone in first place in the league.
All seven of NC State's conference losses have come against six of the seven teams in the league with a winning ACC record. They are 0-7 in those games, losing to Duke twice. The Pack is 2-0 against Miami and Wake Forest, the only two teams State has played with a losing conference record.
Duke now has a 32-game home winning streak and won 16 straight conference games in Cameron. Duke has won 17 of the last 18 games against State in Cameron and 30 of the last 35 overall in the series against the Pack. Duke leads the overall series 137-97.
NC State is 9-23 against ranked opponents under Lowe and is 0-4 this year. State is 17-59 when facing a top-10 ranked Blue Devils squad. In two games this year against Duke, the Blue Devils led for over 78 out of 80 minutes. NC State's lone lead in the two contests was 2-0 at the start of Saturday's game.
NC State's double-digit losses marks the 22nd consecutive season that the Wolfpack has had double-digit defeats. This year was also the quickest that the Pack has reached 10 losses in a year since the 2001-02 season when the Pack was 10-10 after 20 games. They finished that year at 13-16 overall.
Other stats of note
- Duke had a 20-9 advantage in points off turnovers, 16-5 in fast break points, 24-12 in bench points and 13-7 in second chance points.
- State outscored Duke 36-30 in the paint.
- The Pack was outrebounded for the game 45-36 overall and 19-10 on the offensive glass. NC State has been outrebounded in six straight games and seven of their last eight.
- NC State lost the final turnover margin 16-9. It's the 15th time this season State had more turnovers than their opponent.