RALEIGH — When Duke cut N.C. State’s lead to one point midway through the second half, Wolfpack coach Mark Gottfried called a timeout.
Gottfried challenged his players in the huddle to get a rebound, but that wasn’t necessary, according to senior forward Richard Howell.
"Don’t worry about it, coach," Howell said during the timeout. "I’ll get them all."
With 18 rebounds in the game, and 14 in the second half, Howell nearly did in helping the Wolfpack beat No. 1 Duke 84-76 Saturday.
Howell and forward C.J. Leslie (25 points) powered N.C. State against a short-handed Duke frontcourt.
With forward Ryan Kelly on crutches and his right foot in a walking boot, Duke still started strong on the offensive glass. Mason Plumlee, Josh Hairston and Amile Jefferson combined to give Duke an 11-5 advantage in offensive rebounds in the first half.
Howell finished the first half with six points and four rebounds. He was met in the locker room by Gottfried holding the box score.
"We went over the rebounding statistics and it definitely infuriated me," Howell said. "(Coach) said they were trying to out-tough us."
Howell responded early and often in the second half. He scored the first two baskets of the second half, both on putbacks after offensive rebounds, and had eight points in the first five minutes.
Gottfried said after the game that Howell played a "grown man’s game" and Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski called him a "beast." Krzyzewski spoke at length about Howell’s game.
"He’s one of the most unique players in the country," Krzyzewski said. "He’s a kid that every team would want and start and would be so easy to play with.
"He doesn’t need the ball long, he plays with amazing maturity and he rebounds the heck out of the ball."
While Howell was having his way under the basket, Leslie and Plumlee were locked up in a game within a game.
Plumlee had 10 points and eight boards in the first half and finished the game with 15 and 11. Leslie finished with 25 and six, with most of his 14 second-half points coming against Plumlee.
There was one second-half sequence where Leslie went for a dunk and Plumlee blocked his shot but Leslie came back on the next possession and drew a foul from Plumlee.
"He came right back at him the next play, that showed a lot of resiliency on his part to just keep attacking the rim," Gottfried said of Leslie.
Leslie, who broke the 20-point barrier for the third time in six games, said he enjoyed the give-and-take with Plumlee.
"Mason is a great player," Leslie said. "Make no mistake, he did a fantastic job, too, but we came out with the victory and that’s all you can ask."
It was a measure of atonement for Leslie and Howell against Duke. In last year’s game in Durham, both fouled out of State’s 78-73 loss.
Leslie lasted 25 minutes, two more than Howell, as State coughed up a 20-point lead. The two forwards combined for 19 points and 16 rebounds in last year’s loss.
Both Howell and Leslie played 38 minutes in Saturday’s win and combined for 39 points and 24 (of State’s 34) rebounds.
"We’ve said it a hundred times, when Richard has played a lot of minutes, we’re a different team," Gottfried said.