Matchups favored N.C. State in win over Duke

lkeeley@newsobserver.comJanuary 14, 2013 

— Duke didn’t play bad in its 84-76 loss at N.C. State. The Wolfpack simply played better.

“They played a heck of a game,” Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski said of the Wolfpack. “We fought like crazy throughout the game and gave ourselves a chance to win. State played outstanding basketball.”

Lorenzo Brown and Richard Howell drew extra praise from Krzyzewski, as he said both were among the best in the country at their positions. Both were able to win their individual matchups with Quinn Cook and Mason Plumlee, two of Duke’s top performers this year. Here’s a closer look at how each individual matchup played out.

Quinn Cook (6-1, 175) vs. Lorenzo Brown (6-5, 186)

N.C. State scored 22 fast-break points, and that, in Krzyzewski’s mind, was the difference in the game.

“Brown is as good as there is in the country in transition,” he said. “Their transition is what won the game for them, and he’s the reason for it. He’s terrific.”

Brown finished with 12 points (shooting 3-for-13 from the field) and 13 assists. Cook did a fine job on him when the Wolfpack set up their halfcourt offense, and Brown, in turn, neutralized Cook on the other end of the floor. Cook finished with 17 points and seven assists, but Brown’s impact in transition was the separating factor.

Advantage: N.C. State

Seth Curry (6-2, 185) vs. Rodney Purvis (6-3, 195)

Curry finished with 22 points in 32 minutes and started heating up in the second half. He shot 5-of-7 from the field, including a 3-for-5 mark from 3-point range, for 13 second-half points before slipping on a wet spot and leaving the game at the 3:14 mark with a left ankle injury. The Wolfpack rotated Purvis and T.J. Warren on Curry, and Gottfried was pleased with the result.

“Those two guys are young players, they did a pretty good job. They made Seth make tough shots. He made some, but they’re learning, the young guys are learning how to blend in with the older guys.”

Purvis didn’t attempt many shots – he went 3-for-6 from the field for seven points – and Curry nearly brought Duke back when all the other perimeter shooters went cold.

Advantage: Duke

Rasheed Sulaimon (6-4, 185) vs. Scott Wood (6-6, 169)

Wood set the tone early, swooshing his first 3-pointer to open the scoring. He hit two more times from deep, and completed a four-point play as Tyler Thornton fouled him. Before Wood shot, the referee called a double technical, as Wood said something to Thornton that caused the Duke guard to respond with an elbow to his chest.

Sulaimon, meanwhile, is in a shooting slump. He was 0-for-10 against the Wolfpack from the field and is now 9-for-40 (22.5 percent) over Duke’s past five games.

Advantage: N.C. State

C.J. Leslie (6-9, 200) vs. Josh Hairston (6-7, 240)

As expected, Hairston struggled to contain Leslie offensively, and Plumlee switched onto him for the last seven minutes of the game. Leslie lived up to his billing of ACC Preseason Player of the Year, finishing with a game-high 25 points and six rebounds.

Offensively, Duke got 18 points, on 9-of-14 shooting, and nine rebounds from Josh Hairston and Amile Jefferson, the two players replacing the injured Ryan Kelly. Both of those numbers are above his season averages, but, as Jefferson pointed out, Kelly’s greatest impact is on defense. Duke sorely missed him there.

Advantage: N.C. State

Mason Plumlee (6-10, 235) vs. Richard Howell (6-8, 257)

Plumlee played well – 15 points on 7-of-10 shooting and 11 rebounds. Howell simply played better, especially in the second half. He finished with 16 points and 18 rebounds, which tied his career-high in conference play.

“Howell is just a beast,” 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.”

When asked why Howell was such a great rebounder, Krzyzewski went big-picture with his answer.

“God,” he said as the press corps laughed. “God does that.”

Advantage: N.C. State

Keeley 919-829-4556; Twitter @laurakeeley

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