Duke's second-half rally beats N.C. State, 78-73

jdaly@newsobserver.comFebruary 17, 2012 

Editor's note: Watch a video highlight package from Raycom Sports at the bottom of this article.

DURHAM -- In the course of eight days, Duke has come up with two of its more memorable rallies in recent memory.

The Blue Devils rallied from a 20-point second half deficit against N.C. State on Thursday for a 78-73 victory that was every bit as thrilling as Duke’s comeback against North Carolina last Wednesday.

It was the largest halftime deficit the Blue Devils have ever overcome at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

“That’s really one of the more amazing games I’ve been a part of,” Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski said.

Once again, Austin Rivers hit the shot that finally put the Blue Devils on top, burying a 3-pointer from the right wing 2:26 that gave Duke a 72-71 advantage. It was Duke’s first lead of the game and evoked memories of Rivers’ epic shot at the buzzer that won the game against the Tar Heels.

“It was kind of the same thing I did against Carolina,” Rivers said. “I have confidence I can make that shot.”

Added Krzyzewski, “The kid’s got a special quality. He wants to be in the moments. We’re going to put him in those situations – sink or swim. He’s swimming right. He deserves to have the ball then.”

By the time Rivers hit his shot, N.C. State (18-8, 7-4) seemed hopelessly rattled, having squandered the 61-41 lead it enjoyed after Lorenzo Brown hit two free throws with 11:33 remaining. Using a full-court press while taking advantage of the Wolfpack’s foul trouble, the fifth-ranked Blue Devils (22-4, 9-2) finished the game on a 37-12 run.

If Rivers hit the shot that finally catapulted Duke ahead, Seth Curry was the star for the Duke, leading the way with 26 points. He hurt his ankle early in the first half, and Krzyzewski said there was some question about whether he’d return.

In the second half, however, Curry showed no ill effects, aggressively driving into the lane and scoring near the basket. Curry started Duke’s rally with three free throws and finished with 21 points after halftime.

The Wolfpack still had a chance to send the game to overtime after Curry missed a shot in the lane with 28 seconds left. Trailing by three, N.C. State didn’t call a timeout. Instead, Lorenzo Brown missed a contested 3-pointer in the corner. Duke got the rebound and Curry made two free throws to seal the win.

Brown led N.C. State with 19 points and was one of the few N.C. State players to score in the final 11 minutes. In a sign of how rattled the Wolfpack was by the end of the game, Scott Wood missed as many free throws in the second half (three) as he had all year.

With Duke missing shot after shot, the Wolfpack enjoyed a dream first half, building a 19-point lead at one point before taking a 16-point advantage into the halftime break. Duke missed its first nine 3-pointers to grease the tracks for the Wolfpack’s impressive start.

N.C. State kept going in the early part of the second half and 61-41 after the Brown free throws with 11:33 left. At that point, there was little reason to suspect the Wolfpack wasn’t about to win its first game in Cameron since 1995 and enjoy its first victory over a Mike Krzyzewski-coached team in Durham since 1988.

Instead, the Blue Devils scored the next nine points to begin the Wolfpack’s unraveling.

Duke really put the pressure on N.C. State after Rivers drove to the hoop for a layup that made the score 69-62.

After C.J. Williams missed a jumper for N.C. State, Rivers got to the basket again for another layup. C.J. Leslie then missed an 18-footer on the other end, and Plumlee scored on a second-chance layup for Duke to cut the Wolfpack lead to 69-66.

The Wolfpack got a breath of life when Leslie followed a Howell miss with a dunk, but Rivers came down and made a 3-pointer on the other end to cut the Wolfpack lead to 71-69 with 3:11 left.

That set the stage for Rivers’ 3-pointer and a familiar feeling for the Blue Devils.

“It was amazing, but we’ve got to stop doing this to ourselves,” Rivers said. “It’s a bad win, but at the same time, it’s a great win.”

Daly: 919-829-4954

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