Four days after needing one of the most improbable comebacks in program history to take down Louisville, Duke didn’t trail for a second in a win back home.
Freshmen Zion Williamson and R.J. Barrett both excelled offensively, combining for 55 points to lead the second-ranked Blue Devils to a 94-78 victory against N.C. State Saturday at Cameron Indoor Stadium for their first win against the Wolfpack since 2016. Although Duke allowed its most points since Syracuse scored 95 in an upset win more than a month ago, as the Wolfpack penetrated into the paint with ease, they couldn’t keep up with the Blue Devils’ star power in a game played at a frenetic pace.
Barrett completed the fourth triple-double in program history with a pass to Williamson for a tough and-one layup in the final minute of the game, and the freshman finished with 23 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists. It was the team's first triple-double since 2006, when Shelden Williams accomplished the feat as a senior.
"It was great. Teammates were finishing and that really opened the court up for me to score," Barrett said. "We were cleaning the defensive glass, so it was a great team effort."
Duke (23-2, 11-1 in the ACC) took an early double-digit lead with an 11-2 run sparked by a four-point play by freshman Cam Reddish less than five minutes into the game. Freshman point guard Tre Jones knocked down a triple to cap off the run, but Barrett and Williamson took care of the rest and kept attacking the rest of the half.
N.C. State (18-8, 6-7) started four guards 6-foot-5 or shorter, giving up several inches in matchups with Barrett, Reddish and Williamson, and the Blue Devils’ size advantage showed on the glass and in the paint. Williamson and Barrett both finished at the rim over smaller defenders at will, and when they missed, they often got their own rebounds. The Wolfpack often could only stop them by fouling, which didn’t help much with Duke shooting 21-of-28 from the line.
But what N.C. State lacked in size, it partially made up for in quickness—Markell Johnson was as effective as any point guard defended by Jones all season, blowing by him several times and dishing out five assists to shooters on the perimeter or big men catching lobs at the rim.
"We weren’t really locked in on the defensive end tonight as a team. We knew that they wanted to run a lot, and we fell into that trap for sure," Jones said. "We turned into trying to outscore them rather than trying to get as many stops as we usually do."
Williamson already had 19 points by halftime, but the Wolfpack scored enough to stay in the game and trailed 48-40 at the break.
The Blue Devils padded their cushion with three straight dunks in the first 75 seconds of the second half, forcing N.C. State head coach Kevin Keatts to use a timeout. But once again, the Wolfpack battled back, with timely shooting from Johnson, C.J. Bryce and Torin Dorn keeping them close.
The game may have even come down to the wire if not for junior captain Jack White’s effort off the bench in the middle of the second half. He started a productive stint on the floor with an athletic chase-down block on a Johnson layup, cut to the basket for a dunk soon afterwards and pulled down an offensive rebound in traffic before converting a putback to give Duke another double-digit lead with 8:26 left.
"He’s been such a good player for us, and the last month, he’s been okay, but he’s been like a shell of who he was," head coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "He made a great defensive play and hopefully that’s a sign of him being who he was for the first almost half of the season."
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The Australian forward wasn’t done yet, running the floor on a three-on-one fast break to slam home an alley-oop off an assist from Barrett. N.C. State didn’t come closer than eight points the rest of the night.
"I just went out there and tried to have energy and play hard. I was trying to make things happen, and I was fortunate the ball kind of bounced my way a few times," White said. "I was just happy it kind of paid off."
Next up, Duke will renew the most iconic rivalry in college basketball, meeting No. 8 North Carolina for the first time of the season Wednesday night at Cameron Indoor Stadium.