STATE FARMED: No. 9 Duke men's basketball breaks away in second half, bags N.C. State to close road ACC slate

Jeremy Roach pulls up for a jump shot during Duke's first half against N.C. State.
Jeremy Roach pulls up for a jump shot during Duke's first half against N.C. State.

RALEIGH—PNC Arena has been a thorn in Duke’s side in recent years, but the Blue Devils poked back with an elite second-half performance to fight off those demons in Raleigh with a 79-64 win. 

The Blue Devils were led by guards Jeremy Roach and Jared McCain, who had 27 combined second-half points and finished with 21 and 16, respectively. On the other side, senior center DJ Burns had a monster game on his senior night, bullying his way to 27 points on 12-of-19 shooting. 

"It felt a little bit like deja vu the first couple minutes there the way the game started off, but I just thought we showed poise... and then a lot of toughness," head coach Jon Scheyer said. "The story of the game for me was, you have five turnovers against the pressure all game."

Sophomore center Kyle Filipowski committed his second foul with more than 12 minutes left in the first half, only playing four minutes. However, his absence was not entirely missed. Graduate center Ryan Young, and freshman forwards TJ Power and Sean Stewart played inspired in relief, giving the team some much needed frontcourt depth. Duke (24-6, 15-4 in the ACC) had a remarkable 14 offensive rebounds in the first half, which gave it more looks even in a woeful shooting start. 

On N.C. State’s first possession of the second half, Roach stole the ball and finished on the other end. But the Wolfpack’s veteran guard also got going. DJ Horne — who is averaging 17.6 points per game — responded with back-to-back buckets to give N.C State (17-13, 9-10) a 44-43 lead. 

But the next couple minutes showed a glimpse of Stewart’s elite potential. He recorded an impressive block on Burns inside and finished on the other end off an offensive rebound. On the next possession, the guards worked their magic, as sophomore Tyrese Proctor fed Roach off an offensive rebound who skipped it ahead to McCain for his first triple of the contest. The Blue Devils took a 50-46 lead and never looked back.  

"He's just gotten better and better, and naturally, as a freshman, the more you play, the more confidence you can get," Scheyer said. "[Stewart] provides something that we don't have; he's our best athlete, his versatility on defense, his touch around the basket, he's a lob threat."

Duke went on a 20-8 run to the under-8 media timeout which put the game out of reach for the Wolfpack. The Blue Devils got out and used fast-break opportunities to bolster their struggling offense. McCain knocked down his patented transition three and Roach finished with his own coast-to-coast layup as well. 

While Burns continued to score, Duke picked its poison, and did not let N.C. State have many open looks from three at all. McCain hit the exclamation point on an and-one shot from deep with 4:17 remaining in the contest to finish off the Wolfpack. Everything was better on offense for the Blue Devils in the second half, as shots were falling and Duke played inside-out very effectively. 

"In the first half, I thought we missed really good open shots," Scheyer said. "In March, you have to find a way to win ugly sometimes, you have to find a way to win when you're not your best and that's what we did tonight."

From the beginning, Burns was the focal point for the Wolfpack. The offense went through him for the first few possessions as N.C. State jumped out to a 7-0 lead, forcing head coach Jon Scheyer to call a timeout. 

His size was an advantage the entire night, as his presence on the boards made it difficult for the Blue Devils. He grabbed five rebounds, and three on the offensive end. The Wolfpack only took three triples in the first half, a testament to Burns’ ability down low.

However, after the first media timeout, the Blue Devils immediately locked in defensively, forcing multiple turnovers and shot clock violations. After a cold shooting start, Proctor got his team going from deep with a walk-up triple as Duke took its first lead of the game at 11-9. 

"20-0 last year," Roach said in reference to the start of last year's loss in Raleigh. "That's all we were thinking about... we didn't want that to happen today."

Subpar 3-point shooting continued to be a theme throughout the first half, but once again, Proctor was the key, connecting on two late triples to end the frame. The Blue Devils took a 33-30 lead into the locker room with much to be desired, but some positives from the freshmen. 

The Blue Devils close their regular season with a Saturday evening showtime against North Carolina at Cameron Indoor Stadium. The Tar Heels took the first matchup between the two teams 93-84.


Ranjan Jindal profile
Ranjan Jindal | Assistant Blue Zone editor

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

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