Leslie, N.C. State knock off unbeaten, No. 1 Duke 84-76

jgiglio@newsobserver.comJanuary 13, 2013 

— Move over, No. 1 Duke, and make room for first-place N.C. State.

No. 20 N.C. State knocked off previously unbeaten Duke 84-76 on Saturday afternoon in a throwback ACC game that reset the conference order.

With 16 points and 18 rebounds from forward Richard Howell and a game-high 25 points from forward C.J. Leslie, N.C. State won its 10th consecutive game and improved to 3-0 in the ACC.

N.C. State hasn’t hit either milestone since the 1988-89 season, which happens to be the last time the Wolfpack won an ACC title.

Rather than make declarative statements about the meaning of the win, only the fifth over Duke in 26 tries since 2000 and first over a No. 1 team since 2004, N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried kind of shrugged when asked about it.

"I don’t know that it validates anything," Gottfried said. "I don’t really get into all that, I’m just happy for our players."

Leslie, who scored six straight points after Duke made it 58-57 with 10:31 left in the game, said it was only a start for State (14-2, 3-0), which was picked in the preseason to win the ACC.

"We can’t stop here," Leslie said.

Duke (15-1, 2-1) started the game short-handed, with forward Ryan Kelly sidelined with a foot injury, and then lost guard Seth Curry with 3:15 left in the game with an apparent leg injury.

The Blue Devils got 17 points and seven assists from point guard Quinn Cook and 15 points and 11 rebounds from forward Mason Plumlee but didn’t have enough firepower to keep up with the Wolfpack.

Howell dominated the second half with 12 points and 14 rebounds, and point guard Lorenzo Brown finished the game with 12 points and all 13 of N.C. State’s assists.

Senior guard Scott Wood added 14 points and the Wolfpack made a season-best 87 percent (20 of 23) of its free throws.

Howell scored eight of State’s first 10 points of the second half to stretch its 41-39 halftime margin to 53-45.

Duke kept clawing back with Curry (22 points) and a combination of production from Kelly’s replacements, Josh Hairston (eight points, five rebounds) and Amile Jefferson (10 points, four rebounds).

Five straight points from Curry cut State’s lead to 58-57, then Leslie scored six straight points, most at the expense of Plumlee.

N.C. State, which blew a 20-point lead at Duke last season, built a 10-point lead before Curry cut into it again.

"Whenever they looked like they were going to knock us out, we came back," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said.

Curry’s fifth 3, at 3:53, made it 71-67 but he slipped making a cut on Duke’s next possession and left the game for good.

N.C. State, which hasn’t been a good free-throw shooting team, made nine of 10 from the line in the final minute of the game.

Even without Kelly, Duke led by as many as eight in the first half and dominated the offensive glass. The Devils had 11 offensive boards in the first half and were, in the words of Howell, just "tougher than us."

Gottfried challenged Howell and Leslie at the half to limit Duke’s second chances. Howell said the rebounding margin, 22-15 in Duke’s favor at the half, "infuriated" him.

"We talked and we said we’ve got to get every rebound," Leslie said. "Rich did an outstanding job of going in there and getting every rebound he could get it."

State held a 19-13 advantage on the glass in the second half and picked up a rare win over one of its blue neighbors.

Whether there was a validation or meaningful statement to the win, Wood didn’t know, but he did realize its value.

"If you want to be No. 1 in the ACC, you’ve got to go through Duke," Wood said.

Giglio: 919-829-8938

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