The weather couldn’t slow Duke on Saturday, neither could a first-half flurry from N.C. State’s offense.
Grayson Allen and Brandon Ingram helped No. 20 Duke end a rare three-game losing streak Saturday afternoonwith an 88-78 over the Wolfpack.
The Blue Devils (15-5, 4-3 ACC) shot a blistering 70.8 percent in the second half and dug out of an early 10-point deficit with a game-high 28 points from Allen and 25 from Ingram.
An ice storm famously kept Duke from a game at North Carolina in 2014. A hot start from N.C. State (11-9, 1-6) seemed like it would be the only thing in Duke’s way.
There was a stretch in the first half when N.C. State made six straight 3-point shots.
“That could have knocked (us) out,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “Our kids stayed the course.”
Stayed the course and then some in what Krzyzewski called a “lights out” performance in the second half.
The Blue Devils made 7 of their 11 3-pointers and out-scored N.C. State 52 to 35 in the second half to snap their first three-game losing streak since 2007.
“Defensively we just kind of came out slow and they came out hot,” N.C. State sophomore forward Abdul-Malik Abu said.
Hot enough for Duke to end its losing streak at PNC Arena. The Blue Devils had lost their previous three trips here — road games to N.C. State in 2015 and ’13 and an NCAA tournament game to Mercer in 2014.
N.C. State shot 56.7 percent in the first half and started 6 of 8 from the 3-point line to jump out to a 37-27 lead with 3:38 left in the half.
But Duke’s defense got in gear when it needed to with some help from its zone defense in the second half. Junior guard Cat Barber, who led the Wolfpack with 19 points, was slowed in the final 14 minutes after he banged knees with Ingram.
“That was a game-changer for us,” N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried said of Barber’s injury.
Barber bumped knees with Ingram around the 14:12 mark in the second half. He played all but one minute in the game, was limping through most of the second half and didn’t score after the collision.
That could have knocked (us) out. Our kids stayed the course.
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski on N.C State’s six straight 3-point shots in the first half
Even with a gimpy Barber, N.C. State led 56-52 after a layup by junior forward BeeJay Anya at the 14:03 mark in the second half.
Then Duke went on a 14-0 blitz that turned the tide of the game. The Blue Devils got a pair of 3s from Matt Jones and two baskets from Ingram during the run, which ended with them taking a 66-56 at 9:23.
Almost as important as Duke’s shooting was its zone defense. Krzyzewski calls his zone “Orange” in an homage to his friend and Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim. The Blue Devils prevented the Wolfpack from scoring for a 5-minute stretch during the decisive run.
N.C. State made just 1 of its first 10 3-pointers in the second half and finished 2 of 12.
N.C. State still finished the half at almost 50 percent (14 of 30, 46.7 percent) but couldn’t come up with enough juice on the defensive end.
“We didn’t play as hard as we did in the first half and it showed,” sophomore guard Cody Martin said.
N.C. State, coming off of its best performance of the season – a 78-61 victory at Pittsburgh on Tuesday – could not have started the game much better. The Wolfpack shot 56.7 percent from the floor and had good ball movement (it finished the game with 19 assists on 31 field goals) and balance.
A 3 from Barber at 6:49, the last of the six straight by the Wolfpack, gave N.C. State a 29-22 lead. The margin grew to double-digits by the time Maverick Rowan drove baseline and his basket made it 37-27 at 3:38.
But Duke wasn’t interested in a fourth straight ACC loss. The Blue Devils had trouble scoring in Monday’s 64-62 loss at home to Syracuse. Their defense cost them in a 95-91 home loss to Notre Dame on Jan. 16.
A combination of great offense and effective enough defense put the Devils back on track in the ACC.
“That’s a really big win for us,” Krzyzewski said.
And another missed opportunity for N.C. State, which is off to its worst start in the ACC since 1997.
“We just have to keep working,” Gottfried said.