The last time Duke and N.C. State played was nearly a year ago in Durham, and it ended with an 84-82 Wolfpack upset.
Nearing the end of the game, and with a chance to tie the score or take the lead, Duke freshman forward Jayson Tatum lost the basketball, and N.C. State freshman guard Dennis Smith Jr. took the ball down court, for a huge dunk just after the buzzer. The Wolfpack celebrated and walked off the court in a silent Cameron Indoor Stadium.
This season, the two teams have been on very different paths.
No. 2 Duke (13-1, 1-1 ACC) has won its last two games, while N.C. State (10-5, 0-2) and new head coach Kevin Keatts have lost their last two games.
Here’s a look at how the two teams match up heading into the Duke-N.C. State game Saturday at PNC Arena, according to Duke beat writer Jonathan M. Alexander and N.C. State beat writer Steve Wiseman:
G Braxton Beverly vs. Trevon Duval
Alexander says: Beverly can get hot from behind the arc. He’s a talented player, and I can see why Keatts fought so hard for him to be eligible on this year’s roster, after the NCAA seemingly punished him for going to class at Ohio State.
But Duval is one of the best point guards in the country. He helped Duke beat a tough Florida State team, 100-93, in Durham on Dec. 30. Playing with four fouls, Duval assisted or scored on 17 of Duke’s final 20 points. Duval knows, he’ll have a tough matchup too. Duval said Thursday during media availability that Beverly “can shoot,” referencing Beverly’s shooting ability. He averages 10.2 points per game, and is shooting 36 percent from behind the 3-point line.
I still give Duval the edge here.
Wiseman says: This is an intriguing battle of freshmen. Beverly is playing more than Keatts planned because of sophomore point guard Markell Johnson’s suspension. He played all 40 minutes in the 88-58 loss at Notre Dame last Wednesday and 36 minutes when Clemson beat the Wolfpack 78-62 on Dec. 30. At times Beverly slides over to shooting guard while freshman Lavar Batts comes off the bench to run the point. While Beverly has shown a decent shooting touch and is a tough player, he’s turned the ball over six times in the two ACC losses.
Duval is clearly better.
G Al Freeman vs. Gary Trent Jr.
Alexander says: I’ll give N.C. State’s Al Freeman the edge here. The 6-3, 210-pound graduate student is smooth with the ball, and has no problem creating his own shot. He can get to the basket with ease.
Trent is good too. The 6-6, 209-pound freshman can knock down the outside shot and has a good mid-range game. He averages 13 points per game and has been probably Duke’s most clutch player. But Freeman leads N.C. State in scoring at 15.3 points per game. He also averages 4.8 rebounds per game.
Wiseman says: Freeman is struggling to make shots in ACC play. He went 10-of-35 from the field, including 5-of-19 on 3-pointers, in losses to Clemson and Notre Dame. The Wolfpack needs Freeman to find his shot or it has little chance of pulling this upset. He’s capable, having scored 24 in N.C. State’s 90-84 win over then-No. 2 Arizona on Nov. 22 and 17 when the Wolfpack beat Penn State, 85-78, on Nov. 29.
G Torin Dorn vs. Grayson Allen
Alexander says: Dorn has been really good for N.C. State. He’s much improved from last season, averaging 13.2 points per game, which is second on the team. The 6-5, 210-pound junior is also the team’s leading rebounder, averaging 7.6 rebounds per game. But Allen is one of the best players in the country and definitely one of the top three or four players in the ACC. Allen, who’s 6-5, 205 pounds, is Duke’s lone senior, and he averages 17.1 points per game, which is more than any player on N.C. State’s team.
Wiseman says: The Wolfpack is getting solid production from Dorn, who has three double-doubles this season. But, like the rest of the team, he came up small in the two ACC losses, turning the ball over four times at Notre Dame. Dorn made just 1 of 8 shots while scoring seven points with three turnovers at Clemson. He did grab 10 rebounds. He only had one more shot attempt (five) than turnovers against the Irish. Allen is the superior player here.
F Abdul-Malik Abu vs. Wendell Carter Jr.
Alexander says: Abu, the 6-8, 240-pound senior, is still be trying to get his rhythm back after missing a few weeks with an MCL sprain prior to the start of the season. Meanwhile, Carter, a 6-10 and 259-pound freshman, has been huge for Duke. He’s averaging 8.9 rebounds per game in only 24.8 minutes per game. That ranks sixth in the ACC. He had a career-high 16 rebounds against Florida State. Carter, along with freshman forward Marvin Bagley, was a huge reason Duke beat Florida State. The two dominated on the offensive glass and cleaned up many Duke misses. I’ll give Carter the edge here.
Wiseman says: Abu still isn’t up to full speed after recovering from the knee sprain. He admitted after the Notre Dame loss that he needs to provide more points, rebounds and well, everything for N.C. State. He scored eight points – combined – in the two ACC losses this week. Over the past month, he’s shown flashes of the player who was so tough to guard last season. But there hasn’t been enough consistently strong play. N.C. State needs the Abu who had 19 points and nine rebounds when the Pack won at Cameron last year. I’m not sure Abu is able to produce that yet.
F Omer Yurtseven vs. Marvin Bagley III
Alexander says: Yurtseven, the 7-0, 245-pound sophomore, has improved from last year, but this one is easy. Bagley gets the edge here. There are very few players in the country who would win the matchup over him. The 6-11, 235-pound freshman is averaging 21.9 points, and 11.6 rebounds. His 11.6 rebounds per game is fourth in the country. He had 32 points and 21 rebounds in Duke’s game against Florida State. It was the first 30-20 game for a Duke player in the Coach K era.
Wiseman says: After going through the NBA draft process before returning to N.C. State last summer, Yurtseven is using what he learned. He’s moving his feet better, running the court well and, in my eyes, has been the Wolfpack’s top player so far. His 12 points, 10 rebounds and five blocked shots against Clemson’s veteran front line was impressive. He’s in for a tough battle against Bagley, who is quicker and more athletic than Yurtseven. Avoiding foul trouble will be Yurtseven’s biggest challenge against Bagley.
Duke at NC State
When: 8 p.m.
Where: PNC Arena, Raleigh