Brandon Ingram made his first four attempts from 3-point range in the 92-89 win over N.C. State with each shot barely moving the net as the ball swished through.
It looked nothing like his 1-for-5 performance from deep in the loss to North Carolina on March 5. Ingram had 19 points in the first half and finished with 22 points overall.
When asked if he had any idea a hot night was coming, Ingram said, “most definitely not.”
And to think he had been worried about a shortened warm-up time before the game.
“I was kind of concerned going into the game that we were going to only have 20 minutes to warm up, and N.C. State had played yesterday,” the freshman forward guard said. “So it was a good feel for us to see the ball go in.”
Typically, teams have infinite warm-up time during the regular season, but not so if they are not the first game in a gym during postseason play. The Blue Devils, playing in the second game of Wednesday’s ACC Tournament day session, had to wait for Pittsburgh to finish off Syracuse in the first game before they could take the floor.
And all the did after that was turn in their best shooting performance in over six weeks.
Duke shot 52.4 percent from the field for the game, its best shooting percentage since Jan. 23 (the first N.C. State game, probably not coincidentally). The Blue Devils had shot under 40 percent in their previous three games, going 1-2 in that stretch (a win against Wake Forest and losses to Pitt and UNC).
“Now we’re concerned about having too long of warm ups in any gym we go to,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski deadpanned.
“We shot the heck out of the ball. It’s a good thing we did. Proud of our guys.”
The first half, especially, featured a minimal amount of defense and a high level of offense. Both teams shot over 60 percent from the field, with Duke averaging 1.389 points per possession and N.C. State 1.432. The Wolfpack held a 53-50 lead at the break.
And during halftime, rest assured the Blue Devils heard from Krzyzewski about their lack of defensive effort.
“Yeah, it wasn’t good,” junior guard Matt Jones said of Krzyzewski’s halftime assessment. “It wasn’t good.”
Duke had led by more than one possession in the second half for a grand total of 27 seconds before the 9:42 mark. Freshman guard Luke Kennard stripped N.C. State’s Cat Barber and finished a lay-up at the other end to put Duke up 76-72. But on the next possession, the Wolfpack’s Maverick Rowan answered with a double-clutched, bank shot 3.
It was that kind of back-and-forth game, with 18 ties and 20 lead changes.
“They made some tough shots,” Jones said. “We made some tough shots as well. You just have to continue to get a hand up.”
The biggest and toughest shot was the last of the game. Senior Marshall Plumlee had his nose broken by an inadvertent elbow from Jones with eight minutes left in the game, but he was back on the floor with five minutes, 26 seconds left. The game was tied, 89-89, with one minute, 15 seconds left when Plumlee pulled down an offensive rebound and finished through a foul by N.C. State’s Cody Martin. He made the ensuing and-one free throw to put Duke up 92-89.
“We knew how tough he is,” Allen said of Plumlee. “So to see him come in, he’s got blood dripping down his face, he’s still out there yelling like a maniac, it fired the team up.”
Seeing Plumlee also prompted an apology from Jones. Plumlee’s response that he still looked good.
“I said Marshall, you’re right,” Jones said.
The Blue Devils could joke because they came out on the winning side of the offensive track meet, the highest scoring ACC tournament game in 21 years. It was fun to watch – as long as you weren’t Krzyzewski.
“It’s fun for them because the didn’t play any defense for most of the game,” he said.
At least Duke found its shooting stroke, shortened warm-up and all.