RALEIGH - Having watched his 10-deep team get beaten down the stretch Thursday by six-deep North Carolina, men's basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski took his top-ranked Blue Devils down a new route Sunday. He made a lineup change and stuck with his five starters, and the result was something Duke fans have come to expect-victory.
Krzyzewski matched up with small, quick and defense-oriented N.C. State (12-10, 3-8 in the Atlantic Coast Conference) by starting 6-foot-8 Shane Battier and 6-foot-6 Chris Carrawell in place of 6-foot-10 Taymon Domzalski and 6-foot-8 Mike Chappell. His new starting five-Battier, Carrawell, Roshown McLeod, Steve Wojciechowski and Trajan Langdon-played more than 80 percent of Duke's minutes, a stunning contrast from Krzyzewski's liberal substitutions of the first 22 games.
The move paid off, as the Blue Devils led almost the entire game and fought off a pesky Wolfpack club, 65-49.
"Those kids deserved to be in the ballgame," Krzyzewski said of his starting five. "They're playing well.
"Sometimes, just in subbing, you might take your team out of a flow. We were in such a good flow in the second half that I didn't want to mess around with it."
One starter, McLeod, felt the flow on offense more than anyone else on the court. The senior forward poured in a career-high 27 points, including 20 of Duke's 22 during a 13 1/2-minute stretch that spanned the late first half and early second half. During that time, the Blue Devils (21-2, 10-1 in the ACC) outscored State, 22-11.
"I'm not going to go away
On Sunday, McLeod found his bread and butter near the basket. Ten of his 12 field goals came from inside of five feet, and when he wasn't scoring, McLeod was helping to get State's post defenders in foul trouble.
Three of the Wolfpack's four tallest regulars had at least two fouls by halftime, and the one who didn't-freshman center Kenny Inge-committed four fouls in the first 10:29 of the second half and fouled out. With the already-small Pack limited further inside, McLeod went to work, scoring while facing the basket, with his back to the basket and on offensive rebounds.
He also played excellent defense, holding State sophomore Tim Wells to 0-of-5 shooting in the first half and 3-of-13 for the game.
"I wanted to make him take tough shots," McLeod said. "He has a really good 12-to-15-foot jump shot, and I wanted to take that away. I wanted to stay on him and make him drive and do things he wasn't accustomed to. I wanted to take him out of his comfort zone."
McLeod's teammates matched his defensive effort, holding the Wolfpack to 36.7-percent field-goal shooting. The Blue Devils won with a different type of defense than usual, forcing only 11 turnovers-half their season average-but holding the Wolfpack under 40-percent shooting for the second time this season. State shot 39.5 percent and committed 22 turnovers in Duke's 64-50 win Jan. 7 at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
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Duke's field-goal defense Sunday was most impressive during an 18-3 first-half run, in which the Blue Devils forced two turnovers in almost 9 1/2 minutes but held State to 1-of-9 shooting.
"We were all on the same page, we knew where each other were, we were talking, and that allowed us to go on runs and really open up the game," Battier said. "Communication is the key to our defense. When we really talk and really communicate, it gives the guards pressuring the ball a lot more confidence and makes it a lot tougher for the [opponent] to run their offense."
The Blue Devils won't hold on to their No. 1 ranking past Monday, but their defense Sunday was as good as any in the nation. That wasn't the case at Carolina, which shot 63.5 percent against the Blue Devils.
"We needed to be competitive," Krzyzewski said. "In the game Thursday night, I thought we were really excited to play, but we hadn't been in a game like that as a group.
"The only thing that I was upset about [at UNC] was that we weren't competitive every possession. We were competitive for periods, but not every possession. I wanted to get back to being competitive, and I thought we were today, against a very competitive team."
Although their win at N.C. State came less than 72 hours after the loss to UNC, the Blue Devils get little rest before their next contest. They host Florida State, which lost 68-62 Saturday to Maryland, Tuesday at 9 p.m.