Cameron Indoor Stadium is a notoriously tough trip for visiting teams. This season, it was nothing more than a fool’s errand.
The Blue Devils put the finishing touches on an undefeated season at home Tuesday evening, chipping away at visiting N.C. State repeatedly until they built a significant lead midway through the second half and held on late for a 71-67 win. Jeremy Roach, Mark Mitchell, Tyrese Proctor and Kyle Filipowski combined for 54 points in what doubled as a revenge game, and Duke walked out of Cameron Indoor on Senior Night with a season-long five-game winning streak to its name, adding fuel to the fire ahead of Saturday’s showdown at North Carolina.
“Really proud of this team, proud to go undefeated at home. To represent Cameron Indoor Stadium this way, it's a big deal,” head coach Jon Scheyer said. “And [we’ll] get refreshed and focus for one more game.”
Duke (22-8, 13-6 in the ACC) did its best to pull away late in the first half and again early in the second, pushing a 33-29 halftime advantage to 44-34 in a hurry out of the locker room, in large part due to the play of Mitchell. The freshman forward opened the half with a corner three and ushered the Wolfpack into an early timeout with a tough jumper from the midrange.
But N.C. State (22-9, 12-8) continued to hang around, and Jarkel Joiner was much of the reason why. The graduate guard collected 26 points Tuesday to lead all scorers and kept the Wolfpack in it whenever their deficit threatened to get out of hand inside Cameron Indoor.
He and Wolfpack big man DJ Burns Jr. could only do so much for so long, though, and the Blue Devils did eventually bury their opponents with time to spare. Another Duke run materialized in an instant, and a Filipowski and-one — complete with flex and roar — gave Duke its biggest lead at 59-47 with 8:38 to go.
“We're trying to get a top-four [seed] going into the tournament, and that was a huge game for us,” Filipowski said. “We've had goals this whole season. And I mean, we're starting to get where we want to be.”
Offense was hard to come by for both teams in the opening minutes, as the Wolfpack took a 4-2 lead into the media timeout. Just before the stoppage, Joiner went down in the corner holding his lower right leg after seeming to catch his ankle beneath press row. The graduate student returned after a brief absence and went on to lead all scorers in the first half with 12 points on 5-of-10 shooting.
As the half wore on, the two offenses started to find their footing. With the shot clock winding down and the students in Section 17 providing a live countdown, Roach — who finished with 20 points — burst off the 3-point line and drove for the basket, cutting the N.C. State lead to 11-10. Less than a minute later, the junior captain kicked ahead to freshman forward Dariq Whitehead on the break, who buried the triple to even the game at 13-13.
Roach remained the heartbeat of Duke’s attack throughout the opening period, beating the shot clock on multiple occasions for eight first-half points. His offense was key, but the Blue Devils made a living at the free throw line, shooting 12-of-17 at the stripe before the break. Two of those free throws came from Proctor, who drew a dead ball technical foul against star Smith on an inbound. In the end, Duke shot free throws at a 23-of-29 clip, while the Wolfpack lagged behind at 7-of-8.
“Jeremy's a winner. He's been through it,” Scheyer said of Roach’s recent play. “It reminds me of last year at the end with Jeremy in the [NCAA] tournament. And he's done that for us in stretches all year long, but it's the most consistent that he's played, and we ask a lot of him.”
Burns was the engine for N.C. State early in the first, scoring seven quick points to pace the visitors with Smith in foul trouble and held scoreless until a pair of free throws with 15:27 to play. Smith, the ACC’s third-leading scorer at 17.6 points per game entering Tuesday, ultimately scored eight points on 2-of-9 shooting, including a buzzer-beating three to end the game. He scored 24 points in a January rout of the Blue Devils in Raleigh.
But the Blue Devils managed to slow Burns down late in the first frame. On one possession, Filipowski came over to help in the post, forcing the Wolfpack big man into a travel. That defensive play incited the sequence that gave the Blue Devils the biggest lead of the half: Two possessions and two Dereck Lively II buckets later, Duke led 24-17. N.C. State head coach Kevin Keatts called timeout, bringing the Cameron Indoor crowd to an early frenzy.
Filipowski and Lively controlled the glass for the Blue Devils, combining for 26 rebounds as Duke won the rebounding battle 44-35. Even on a tough shooting night, Filipowski had a double-double with 11 points on 2-of-11 shooting and a game-high 14 rebounds.
When these teams met Jan. 4 in Raleigh, the Wolfpack ran away with an 84-60 win as Joiner and Smith combined for 45 points.
N.C. State's biggest advantage came in the 3-point shooting department. The Wolfpack shot just 8-of-28 from beyond the arc, but that was decidedly better than Duke's 2-of-19 mark.
With the win, the Blue Devils move to 16-0 inside Cameron Indoor in their first campaign under Scheyer, capping off the 19th undefeated home season in program history.
“It's really special,” Scheyer said of finishing undefeated at home. “This wasn't something we set out and said, ‘We want to do this,’ you want to win as many games as possible. But for me, the first time I ever visited Duke was coming to a Duke game. … Since that moment, playing in Cameron has always been a dream of mine, to coach here is the same thing.”
After the game, graduate center Ryan Young — who had four points and six rebounds in 10 minutes Tuesday — confirmed that he will return to Cameron Indoor next season for his final year of eligibility. He will continue to pursue an MBA at the Fuqua School of Business.
Next up for Duke is the regular-season finale, a Saturday rematch at North Carolina. The Blue Devils, who remain in play for a top-four seed and double-bye at the ACC tournament, took the first matchup 63-57 in Durham.
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Jonathan Levitan is a Trinity senior and was previously sports editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.