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'PACK IT UP: DUKE DONE AFTER 1 in ACCs

TAMPA, Fla. - It had been 12 years since Duke played on a Thursday in the ACC Tournament-and it showed.

Coming in off two straight losses to end the regular season, the seventh-seeded Blue Devils (22-10) bowed out of the ACC Tournament before the finals for the first time in nine years, losing an overtime battle to No. 10 seed N.C. State.

Duke could not stop the Wolfpack's offense in the second half or in the extra period, allowing N.C. State (16-14) to overcome a five-point halftime deficit and win 85-80 in the St. Pete Times Forum.

"It really hurts a lot," junior DeMarcus Nelson said. "I've been here for two years, and in those two years we've won this tournament. Not being able to have that opportunity this year really hurts."

After seeing its small halftime lead evaporate, Duke forced overtime with a last-minute flurry. Down two with just under two minutes to go, Marty Pocius-who earned extra playing time due to the suspension of Gerald Henderson-finished a three-point play to give the Blue Devils a 68-67 lead at the 1:50 mark.

But just as he had done the entire second half, Wolfpack senior point guard Engin Atsur answered by coolly hitting a three from the wing. The Blue Devils then tied it up at 70 with a DeMarcus Nelson drive that the junior appeared to will into the basket more than shoot.

N.C. State's final attempt to win in regulation came up short when Courtney Fells missed an open baseline jumper long and the ensuing tip did not draw iron.

In overtime, Duke's defense could not stop N.C. State. After shooting 62.5 percent from the field in the second half, N.C. State scored on every one of its eight overtime possessions, and hit nine of their 13 free throws, to shut the door on Duke.

All-ACC freshman forward Brandon Costner opened the extra period with a three-point play that also resulted in Josh McRoberts' fourth foul of the game. Duke kept within one score until the final minute, but playing with a limited McRoberts and without Nelson and Dave McClure-both of whom fouled out in overtime-the Blue Devils' offense could not overcome the team's inability to defend.

"We have not played well defensively for two weeks," head coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "We're just not going to win ball games if we don't play defense."

Costner paced the Wolfpack's offense throughout the game. With Josh McRoberts limited to 11 first-half minutes due to two fouls in the first four minutes of the game, Costner tore up the Blue Devils' interior defense.

With his team down 34-29 coming out of the intermission, Atsur came alive after a scoreless first half and made Duke pay for focusing on Costner down low. Costner finished with an efficient 30 points on 10-for-17 shooting, and Atsur added 21, including 4-for-7 from beyond the arc.

Unable to stop the Wolfpack, the Blue Devils were sent back to North Carolina with their third straight loss and searching for answers before the NCAA Tournament. With a high RPI and strength-of-schedule ratings Duke is still a lock to make the Big Dance, but their seed could be as low as it has been in a decade.

In eight of the past nine seasons prior to this one, the Blue Devils had entered the NCAA Tournament as a No. 1 seed.

"We know that we're not a great basketball team and have never been a great basketball team," Krzyzewski said. "But we've been a really good basketball team for most of the year. Obviously, we're not playing that way right now. We just have to use the time that we have right now and try to correct that."

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