The details are a little fuzzy for Cat Barber but he remembers the sequence of events clearly.
And the N.C. State junior guard would like to avoid a repeat on Saturday against No. 20 Duke.
Last March in the ACC tournament, Barber had an outstanding game and led N.C. State to a win over Pittsburgh. The next game, Duke swarmed N.C. State, held Barber scoreless and knocked him out in the second half with a concussion.
On Tuesday, Barber scored 31 points in the Wolfpack’s 78-61 win at Pitt. He had 34 in last year’s 81-70 ACC tournament win over the Panthers.
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Duke (14-5, 3-3 ACC) might coming into the game on a three-game losing streak but Barber is ready for the Blue Devils’ best shot.
“Coach K always has some tricks up his sleeve,” Barber said of Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski.
In the ACC tournament, that trick was a three-quarter court trap to get the ball out of Barber’s hands and then a matchup zone, which swarmed N.C. State’s guards and dared the bigs to score.
Coach K always has some tricks up his sleeve.
NC State guard Cat Barber
Duke ran out to a 28-11 lead in the first 11 minutes, on a flurry of dunks from Marshall Plumlee, and was up 49-22 at the half.
Barber missed his first seven shots and then collided with Duke’s Amile Jefferson at 13:26 in the second half and suffered a concussion. Barber didn’t play the rest of the game and Duke was never threatened in a 77-53 final.
Neither Duke nor N.C. State (11-8, 1-5) is the same team from their last meeting in Greensboro. The Blue Devils lost four starters from their national title team, including their three star freshmen, who were all NBA first-round picks. N.C. State lost its top two guards from a Sweet 16 team.
Both teams have had to deal with significant injuries to a key player this season. Duke lost senior forward Amile Jefferson after 10 games to a foot injury. He hasn’t played an ACC game yet and the Blue Devils have missed his leadership and rebounding (he averages 9.3 per game).
N.C. State lost junior guard Terry Henderson seven minutes into the season opener to a foot injury and have missed his 3-point shooting and ball-handling help.
Duke has used only six players for more than 10 minutes per game in Jefferson’s absence. The Wolfpack has a 7-man rotation without Henderson.
N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried doesn’t think the situations are the same, though.
“I think we’re a lot different,” Gottfried said. “They’ve got some great players sitting on the bench that they’re choosing not to play. I think ours is a little different. We’re down to where we don’t have as much guys.”
There is one common link between the two teams, both pursued forward Brandon Ingram doggedly on the recruiting trail. Ingram, who watched N.C. State’s home win over Duke last year from behind the Wolfpack bench, ultimately chose the Blue Devils.
This is the first time Gottfried will get a close-up look at Ingram, who has been outstanding for the Devils with 16.6 points per game and 6.2 rebounds.
Gottfried downplayed the Ingram factor in Saturday’s matchup.
“We recruit guys really hard,” Gottfried said. “We get emotionally invested into it but, if in fact, someone chooses to go somewhere else, you have to move on.”
Gottfried did say that Ingram’s versatility does present a matchup problem.
“We’ll see how the game unfolds,” Gottfried said. “We’ve got some tough matchup issues with them. We hope that we’re a tough matchup for them, too.”
Giglio: 919-829-8938, @jwgiglio