Ted Kapita had not played in the past two games before N.C. State’s trip to Duke.
But before the game, N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried said he had a hunch about the 6-8, 219-pound freshman forward, who he hadn’t been playing because he said he thought he had better matchups with BeeJay Anya.
When Kapita was called off the bench in the Wolfpack’s 84-82 win over the Blue Devils on Monday, he made his time on the court count. He recorded his first double-double of the season, with 14 points on 6 for 7 shooting and 10 rebounds in 19 minutes.
“He needs to play,” Gottfried said. “He’s done a good job. He missed a lot of games early and he’s kind of been behind. But I felt like he deserved a chance.”
“I thought he came in and gave us a great lift. He played really well in just about every phase of the game.”
Kapita was not the player of the game. Save that one for Dennis Smith Jr., who had 32 points and 6 assists. But Kapita made a couple of put-back buckets and some clutch free throws down the stretch, which helped the Wolfpack get back into a game that was slipping away.
Duke was up by 9 with six minutes and 18 seconds left before Kapita scored on a layup and then hit two free throws. Those four points ignited the Wolfpack, who then went on a 20-5 run over the next 5 1/2 minutes.
With N.C. State up by 6 with one minute and 27 seconds left, Duke wasn’t able to climb out of the hole.
“It’s about staying ready,” junior forward Abdul-Malik Abu said of his teammate. “He deserves it. He works hard. He prays hard and he finally got to show the world what he’s capable of.”
It was a must-win for N.C. State, who prior to Monday, had lost four of its last five games.
Kapita said he knew he’d be ready when his time came.
“Sometimes things don’t go your way,” he said. “You just got to be patient and keep working. That’s the only thing I got to keep doing. Keep working no matter what. Because I know how to control how I can play hard, and the rest will take care of itself.”
The rest did.
Many people were already counting the Wolfpack out. But Kapita said his team didn’t have that mindset.
“I told my team we just got to be focused and play our game,” Kapita said.
Monday night’s win was the first time N.C. State beat Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium since 1995.
“I just can’t wait and go back home and celebrate with my teammates and everybody else,” Kapita said. “People will support us. People want us to do good.”