RALEIGH - There's only one way to win against Herb Sendek's N.C. State Wolfpack-ugly.
In Sunday's 65-49 win over the Wolfpack, the men's basketball team did exactly that, beating a N.C. State team that played excruciatingly physical basketball, despite suiting up just eight players-and playing only six of those for the game's first 37 minutes.
The Wolfpack threw down the gauntlet from the opening tip, bodying up Duke's post players and pressuring the perimeter, picking up four team fouls before the Blue Devils picked up one.
"I got elbowed in the head a couple of times and I'm sore all over," said Duke forward Chris Carrawell, who started his first game of the year.
N.C. State seemed to knock Duke out of any sort of rhythm on offense to start the game and still had the Blue Devils struggling to score almost 10 minutes into the game when the score stood at 13-13. The tide was turned soon after, however, as Roshown McLeod produced a one-man rhythm that the Wolfpack could do little to disrupt.
"They were being physical and we had to adjust to the way the game was being played," McLeod said.
The senior forward closed out the first half scoring 12 of Duke's final 14 points, including the last 10. He picked up where he left off in the second half, scoring the first six points and 10 of the first 12.
"Tonight, it was all Roshown McLeod," Sendek said. "He's a senior and I think he is a terrific player. He's extremely versatile and can score so many different ways. Today he scored a lot from around the basket."
McLeod ended up with a career-high 27 points to go along with 10 rebounds not simply by chance, but by design.
"We wanted to take advantage of our height advantage against State like UNC did against us," Carrawell said. "They were especially susceptible inside because of all their injuries."
McLeod's 12-of-18 shooting performance comes on the heels of an 8-for-23 shooting night in Thursday's loss at North Carolina.
The Blue Devils' other half of their pre-game strategy involved defense. While N.C. State was disrupting Duke's flow on offense with physical play, the Blue Devils were stifling the Wolfpack's normally perimeter-oriented offense by keeping constant pressure on their long-range threats-Archie Miller and Ishua Benjamin.
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"A real key was that we didn't give Miller and Benjamin any open looks at the basket," Carrawell said. "C.C. Harrison, he did his thing all right, but Miller and Benjamin-we kept them in check."
Both players finished the first half scoreless and Benjamin finished with just six points overall on 3-of-11 shooting. Miller fared even worse, due to intense pressure from Steve Wojciechowski. He went scoreless for the game and got off a mere two shots.
With Justin Gainey out with a sore back, the point guarding duties fell squarely on Miller's shoulders for the entire game. He responded with six assists and three turnovers-but the intensity of being matched up with Wojciechowski for almost 40 minutes led to the game's most physical matchup.
At one point late in the first half, the two dove for a ball at the top of the key, only to have it bounce away. What ensued resembled more of a WWF match than a basketball game as the two exchanged scissor holds on each other's heads before play was stopped by a foul under the basket.
"I think he's been watching too many steel cage matches," Wojciechowski said with a laugh. "It just got physical. It was just two hard-headed kids going at it and refusing to give up."
Duke's intent to step up the defensive intensity was evident even before the action started as Carrawell and Shane Battier replaced Mike Chappell and Taymon Domzalski in the starting lineup.
"The starting lineup was the way it was for defensive purposes," said Battier, who turned in a seven-rebound, three-blocked-shot performance. "We wanted to come in and put the kabash on the them.
"Today we showed our maturity by showing we can play good, solid defense just one game after we had a not-so-great defensive night in Chapel Hill."
It is undoubtedly the sting of that 24-point loss to the Tar Heels that carried over to Sunday and provided the impetus for such change and focus. Duke even shedded its traditional road blue uniforms for their black jerseys.
"We got beat pretty good in the blues, so we didn't want to wear those again too soon," Carrawell said.