RALEIGH—With Winter Storm Jonas dumping snow and ice throughout the Triangle Friday and early Saturday, North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory urged fans to stay home from Saturday's game at PNC Arena due to treacherous driving conditions that could cause skidding on the roadways.
The Blue Devils could not heed the governor's directive, though—in order to stop their own three-game skid, they had to take care of business in an arena that has been anything but welcoming to them in recent years.
Behind a monstrous second-half run, No. 20 Duke dug itself out of a seven-point halftime deficit and glided past N.C. State 88-78, avoiding a fourth consecutive loss to an unranked ACC foe. Freshman Brandon Ingram keyed the comeback effort with 10 straight Blue Devil points spanning halftime, and Grayson Allen scored a game-high 28—including a scoop shot to beat the shot clock buzzer and push the lead to 10 with just more than a minute remaining—as Duke won in Raleigh for the first time since 2011.
"We realize as a team that we’re not going to wake up and win. You have to cherish moments like these and realize that it wasn’t given—it was earned," junior Matt Jones said. "To see us go there and succeed, it was a good feeling."
The Blue Devils (15-5, 4-3 in the ACC) used a 14-0 spurt midway through the second half to turn a 56-52 deficit into a 66-56 lead, capped by three consecutive baskets in transition. After Ingram stole an inbounds pass, Allen drove the entire length of the court for a lay-in. The next two possessions resulted in long rebounds, which the Blue Devils pushed downcourt in a hurry, resulting in an Ingram dunk and an uncontested Jones 3-pointer from the top of the key—his second triple of the spurt.
Jones had yet to score prior to his first 3-pointer of the run, which came with 10:55 left in the game and gave Duke a 59-56 lead. After shooting 2-of-11 from downtown Monday against Syracuse and 5-of-21 overall during the Blue Devils' three-game slide, the DeSoto, Texas, native hit just two shots from the field, but timed them well.
"Matt Jones hit two huge threes for us. He hasn’t been shooting well, and he hit those two free throws," Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "I think he had eight points, but they were eight strategic points. They were big. You could see our team get uplifted by it."
Ingram stayed on the attack, drilling another 3-pointer coming out of the under-four media timeout to stretch Duke's lead to 77-64 after two missed Wolfpack free throws. The freshman finished with 25 points and shot 4-of-6 from deep.
After his nifty finish to put Duke ahead 81-71 with 1:17 left, Allen salted away the game at the free-throw line. The Jacksonville, Fla., native also added seven assists and seven rebounds, closing out the game with six of his team's final 10 points, after scoring 10 of the first 14 to start the game in every way imaginable—a 3-pointer, a dunk, a mid-range jumper and an old-fashioned 3-point play.
"I think you’ve seen throughout the year a lot of guys have gone off for six-, seven-, eight-point runs on their own," Allen said. "Today I was able to do that. Another day it might be Luke [Kennard or] Brandon. We have a lot of guys capable of filling up the stat sheet.”
Duke threw a bevy of different defensive looks—including an extended zone that occasionally seeped into something of a full court press—at the Wolfpack (11-9, 1-6) throughout the first half, trying to confuse point guard Anthony "Cat" Barber and the Wolfpack offense. But N.C. State stayed patient, working deep into the shot clock before firing away from downtown.
The Wolfpack connected on 3-pointers on four straight possessions, courtesy of Barber—the ACC's leading scorer—and twins Cody and Caleb Martin. By the time the barrage was over, a 16-11 deficit had morphed into a 23-19 N.C. State lead. After a turnover on the next possession, freshman Maverick Rowan added a triple of his own, and Barber capped the stretch with a straight-away 3-pointer that bounced straight up in the air before falling through.
"Those six straight threes—the thing I’m most proud of is that could have knocked you out," Krzyzewski said. "Our kids stayed the course [and] got back to within three. We were down by seven at half, and then started the second half, we played some lights-out offensive basketball and really good defense."
Barber poured in 14 points in the first half, but was kept largely under wraps after halftime and was held scoreless in the final 14:48. After the game, N.C. State head coach Mark Gottfried said the junior had taken a knee to either the thigh or knee that limited his explosiveness.
Historically a man-to-man team, Duke extended its zone Saturday, mixing things up and throwing all sorts of defensive wrinkles at the Wolfpack. The scheming was the result of ample practice time following Monday's loss to the Orange.
"You can’t do that in one day. We had good preparation time, and no one got hurt, which is always something I’m concerned about when we’re going 5 on 5 in practice," Krzyzewski said. "We had really good preparation for this."
After Allen's hot start, Ingram came alive to close the half for the Blue Devils. The Kinston, N.C., native poured in his team's last seven points of the half, then opened the second stanza with a wing triple on Duke's first possession.
Ingram knocked down another 3-pointer from the opposite side of the floor, drawing contact in the process to tie the game at 47-47. But he could not convert the four-point play, and N.C. State responded with a mini-run to steal back some momentum before Duke embarked on its game-defining spurt.
The Blue Devils will now face a quick turnaround, heading south to take on No. 15 Miami Monday at 7 p.m. for its last game before a Feb. 2 road contest at Georgia Tech.
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