TEXIT: No. 4-seed Duke men's basketball collapses in second half to NC State, concludes season in Elite 8

Jared McCain walks off the court after Duke's loss to N.C. State.
Jared McCain walks off the court after Duke's loss to N.C. State.

DALLAS—After traveling hundreds of miles, Duke was sent packing at the hands of a school just a few dozen minutes down the road.

In the South Regional Final, No. 4-seed Duke came up short against No. 11-seed N.C. State 76-64. The Blue Devils shined again defensively, but were unable to slow down graduate forward DJ Burns Jr., who cemented himself as a March-Madness legend with 29 dominant points. The Blue Devils’ desperate tries to get back into things were largely unsuccessful — they shot 32.2% from the field in the second half — and N.C. State cruised to its first Final Four berth since 1983. 

“This is not easy. Congratulations to N.C. State, they earned the win. I thought the first half, we played great defense, and they only scored 21 points, but we never had a rhythm on offense,” said head coach Jon Scheyer after the loss. “In the second half, they started to score more. And our offense just, that was probably the most disjointed game that we've had all year. It really was.”

Staring down a 8-0 N.C. State run and without star sophomore center Kyle Filipowski — who picked up his fourth foul with 9:49 left in the second half — Duke desperately needed a bucket. More than that, though, the Blue Devils needed to reclaim their defensive identity. After holding N.C. State to just 21 points in the first half, Duke allowed the Wolfpack to score 27 in the first 12 minutes of the second.

So, after continuing to surrender buckets to N.C. State, head coach Jon Scheyer opted to bring his 7-footer back in. On his first possession back in the game, Filipowski attempted a shot that appeared to be tipped by a Wolfpack defender. Head coach Kevin Keatts disagreed, and his argument with the officials led to a technical foul.

While they made both free throws, the Blue Devils could not fully take advantage of the extra possession. Instead, it was N.C. State that grabbed a big play, with graduate guard Michael O’Connell nailing a three in transition to stretch the Wolfpack lead to nine. Burns made it double digits when he scored again inside.

Things went south for good for Duke when it missed three different 3-point tries on one possession, graduate guard DJ Horne came down and scored his 18th point of the game and Filipowski fouled out trying to pick up an offensive rebound. While there was still 4:52 left to play, the whistle forcing Filipowski to exit might as well have been the final buzzer.

The pace at which the second period opened favored the Wolfpack over the Blue Devils. Duke had found success earlier on by slowing things down and forcing N.C. State to play in the halfcourt. When the Wolfpack turned the game into a track meet, they started finishing stronger and building confidence.

One of the biggest questions coming into the matchup was Scheyer’s strategy defensively against Burns. To open the game, Duke chose not to double-team the big man on the catch, as he has shown time and again his ability to make plays when teams send two. So, the ACC tournament MVP took matters into his own hands, attempting the first three shots for N.C. State and finishing the half with eight points on eight tries from the field. 

Luckily for Duke, the Wolfpack were a little overeager and picked up some unnecessary shooting fouls. The Blue Devils were able to take advantage at the charity stripe and converted on their first nine free throws, compensating for a less-than-ideal start.

Once things started clicking on offense for Duke, its defensive intensity also picked up. The Wolfpack were able to get to the rim, but they were heavily contested once they got there. Encapsulated by freshman forward Sean Stewart’s impressive glass-cleaning block, the Blue Devils’ rim protection caused N.C. State to shoot just 1-for-11 on layups in the first half.

This allowed Duke to dictate the pace of the game and open a nine-point lead, but every time it seemed as though the Blue Devils would stretch their lead to double digits, the Wolfpack were there with a response. They showed the poise of a team that had been in this moment before — or a team that has won eight-straight games.

“Let me just give credit to them,” Roach said. “We weren’t us today.”

While it was graduate center Ryan Young who shone from Duke’s bench last time out against Houston, Scheyer opted to reach even further into his reserves against N.C. State. Both Stewart and junior guard Jaylen Blakes saw significant minutes in the first half, and they made the most of their time on the court. Especially with Filipowski and sophomore point guard Tyrese Proctor each picking up two first-half fouls, their energy was essential to the Blue Devils’ six-point lead heading into the locker room.

Duke will now enter an offseason full of questions, as every member of the starting lineup will have to decide whether to return to the program or go pro.


Dom Fenoglio | Assistant Blue Zone editor

Dom Fenoglio is a Trinity sophomore and an assistant Blue Zone editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.

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