Four quick takeaways from N.C. State’s 84-82 win at Duke on Monday night in Durham:
1) Pay that man his money
N.C. State freshman guard Dennis Smith Jr. came into the season projected as one of the top picks in the NBA draft. Smith has been good but he did not play like this before, completely taking over a game and willing N.C. State to a win.
Smith controlled the game and carried N.C. State (14-7, 3-5 ACC) when it got behind by eight points in the second half and made all the plays down the stretch to push the Wolfpack to its first win at Cameron Indoor Stadium since 1995.
Smith finished with 32 points and six assists. He outshone fellow future NBAers Jayson Tatum and Harry Giles in the process.
It has been Smith with the target on his back all season and other teams have used him as the measuring stick. Boston College, with a pair of guards from North Carolina, immediately comes to mind as an example of this. Smith embraced the challenge of competing against Duke and Tatum and took the game over.
Smith also showed an eagerness to make up for a subpar outing at UNC on Jan. 8 when N.C. State lost by 51 points.
Smith was so good, after one Cameron Crazie taunted the Wolfpack guard in the second half and said, “You (stink) Smith.” The same fan turned around to his friend and said, “He really doesn’t.”
2) Kapita from out of nowhere
Freshman forward Ted Kapita had four points in the first seven ACC games and didn’t get off the bench in the past two games. Just when it looked like Kapita, who had 17 points and eight rebounds in his first college game, might not be a factor the rest of the season, he turns in a 14-point, 10-rebound performance in 19 minutes.
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski likes to call physical games like this “a man’s game” and Kapita was a man out there for State, especially with Duke going with freshmen bigs Marques Bolden and Giles for extended minutes.
Kapita and junior forward Abdul-Malik Abu (19 points, nine rebounds) gave the Wolfpack the kind of production it needs from its frontcourt.
Abu, in particular, delivered down the stretch while Duke over-committed defensively to Smith.