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Why NC State’s win over Duke wasn’t really such a shocker after all

NC State celebrates the Wolfpack's victory over Duke

Watch a timelapse of the celebration of players and fans after the NC State Wolfpack upset the Duke Blue Devils at PNC Arena in Raleigh, NC Saturday, Jan. 6, 2018.
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Watch a timelapse of the celebration of players and fans after the NC State Wolfpack upset the Duke Blue Devils at PNC Arena in Raleigh, NC Saturday, Jan. 6, 2018.

N.C. State shocked many when, after suffering a pair of lopsided ACC road losses, it beat No. 2 Duke, 96-85, last Saturday night.

Recent history in the series, though, shows that a Wolfpack win over the Blue Devils isn’t so unusual.

Since the 2009-10 season, N.C. State has five wins over Duke. In four of those wins, Duke’s been ranked in the top 10. Twice the Blue Devils lost to N.C. State and went on to win the NCAA tournament.

The Blue Devils are 10-5 against N.C. State over the past nine seasons – including this one. By comparison, the Blue Devils are 13-5 against North Carolina.

Here’s a look at N.C. State’s last five wins over Duke:

N.C. State 88, Duke 74: Jan, 20, 2010, at PNC Arena

2010
Tracy Smith, center, along with Julius Mays, Johnny Thomas and Jordan Vandenberg, right, celebrate N.C. State's 88-74 victory over Duke on Jan. 20, 2010. Ethan Hyman ehyman@newsobserver.com

The lead-in: Under coach Sidney Lowe, the Wolfpack was 12-6 overall and 1-3 in the ACC before playing the No. 8-ranked Blue Devils.

The skinny: Against Duke, N.C. State shot a sizzling 58.2 percent, and all five of its starters scored in double figures.

The stars: N.C. State junior forward Tracy Smith made 10 of 12 shots while scoring 23 points, and senior forward Dennis Horner added 20.

After the upset: N.C. State lost its next seven ACC games, finishing the season 5-11 in the league and 20-16 overall. The Wolfpack made the NIT in Lowe’s penultimate season as its head coach. Duke lost just two more games (at Georgetown and at Maryland) that season before going on to win the ACC and NCAA tournaments and finishing the season 35-5.

N.C. State 84, Duke 76: Jan, 17, 2013, at PNC Arena

2013
N.C. State’s C.J. Leslie, middle, celebrates with the fans after the Wolfpack’s 84-76 win over Duke on Jan. 12, 2013. Ethan Hyman ehyman@newsobserver.com

The lead-in: Mark Gottfried’s second N.C. State team was ranked No. 20 after opening ACC play with two wins (Georgia Tech and Boston College). Duke was 15-0 and ranked No. 1 the country.

The skinny: While Duke struggled to make 3-pointers (hitting just 6 of 20 for 30 percent), the Wolfpack shot 50.8 percent overall and committed just 11 turnovers.

The stars: N.C. State junior forward C.J. Leslie poured in 25 points and senior forward Richard Howell scored 16 as the Wolfpack found success inside.

After the upset: Duke continued to have trouble on the road in the ACC, losing at Miami, Maryland and Virginia. The Blue Devils found their groove in the NCAA tournament, reaching the NCAA Midwest Regional final before losing 85-63 to eventual tournament champion Louisville. The Blue Devils finished the season 30-6 and 14-4 in the ACC. N.C. State lost five of its next seven ACC games, including a 98-85 loss at Duke on Feb. 7. The Wolfpack won six of eight league games down the stretch, earning an NCAA tournament berth before losing 76-72 in the first round to Temple. N.C. State finished the season 24-11 and 11-7 in the ACC.

N.C. State 87, Duke 75, Jan. 11, 2015, at PNC Arena

2015
N.C. State’s Trevor Lacey celebrates with fans after the Wolfpack’s 87-75 victory over Duke at PNC Arena on Jan. 11, 2015. Ethan Hyman ehyman@newsobserver.com

The lead-in: The Wolfpack already owned a pair of home ACC wins (Wake Forest and Pitt) and was 11-5 overall. Duke was 14-0 and ranked No. 2 the country.

The skinny: N.C. State struck gold with long-distance shooting, making 10 of 16 3-pointers and shooting 55 percent overall. While Duke freshman center Jahlil Okafor dominated inside with 23 points and 12 rebounds, Duke’s poor perimeter shooting (7 of 27 on 3-pointers) doomed the Blue Devils to their first loss.

The stars: Wolfpack redshirt junior guard Trevor Lacey made five of seven 3-pointers while scoring a team-high 21 points. Redshirt senior guard Ralston Turner added 16 points while making four of seven 3-pointers.

After the upset: Duke had its second straight poor defensive performance two nights later, losing 90-74 at home to Miami. But the Blue Devils righted themselves and only lost twice more (both to Notre Dame) while going on to win the program’s fifth NCAA tournament title. Duke finished the season 35-4 and 17-4 in the ACC. The Wolfpack went on to lose six of its next eight ACC games, including an 81-79 loss at home against UNC. N.C. State, however, went on to make the NCAA tournament, where it upset No. 1-seeded Villanova to advance to the round of 16 and finish the season 22-14 overall and 10-8 in the ACC.

N.C. State 84, Duke 82, Jan. 23, 2017, at Cameron Indoor Stadium

2017
N.C. State’s Dennis Smith Jr. gets ready to slam in two after time expires during the Wolfpack’s 84-82 victory over Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium in on Jan. 23, 2017. Ethan Hyman ehyman@newsobserver.com

The lead-in: With Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski out recovering from back surgery, the Blue Devils were 15-4 and 3-3 in ACC. Associate head coach Jeff Capel was filling in for Krzyzewski as head coach of No. 17 Duke. N.C. State, coached by Mark Gottfried, had lost five of its first seven ACC games – including a 51-point loss to UNC – and was 13-7 overall.

The skinny: After trailing 44-38 at halftime, N.C. State shot a sizzling 55.6 percent in the second half to post its first win against Duke in Durham since 1995. Duke missed 12 of its 14 3-pointers in the second half. Grayson Allen went 1 of 9 from behind the arc for the game.

The stars: In what would be his lone game against Duke, N.C. State freshman guard Dennis Smith Jr. scored 32 points on 10 of 18 shooting with six assists. Junior forward Abdul-Malik Abu added 19 points and nine rebounds for the Wolfpack.

After the upset: It looked like the win could turn N.C. State’s season around, but instead the Wolfpack lost its next seven games, a skid that started with an 85-60 loss at Louisville six days later. Gottfried was fired on Feb. 16, just 24 days after the Duke win. He went on to coach the rest of the season, and the Wolfpack finished 15-17 overall and 4-14 in the ACC.

Duke won its next seven games as Krzyzewski returned and led the Blue Devils to the ACC tournament championship. The Blue Devils lost to South Carolina in the second round of the NCAA tournament and finished the season 28-9 overall and 15-7 in the ACC.

N.C. State 96, Duke 85, Jan. 6, 2018, at PNC Arena

2018
N.C. State guard Torin Dorn, on ground, is greeted by his team as the crowd celebrates his 3-point shot and was fouled in the second half of the Wolfpack’s 96-85 win over Duke on Jan. 6, 2018. Chuck Liddy cliddy@newsobserver.com

The lead-in: The Blue Devils had lost their ACC opener at Boston College but were 13-1 overall and ranked No. 2 heading into last Saturday’s game at N.C. State. N.C. State had defeated then-No. 2 Arizona in November, but had also lost to UNC Greensboro at PNC Arena.

The skinny: Duke jumped to a 27-16 lead, but N.C State scored 15 straight points to lead 43-41 at halftime. The Wolfpack never trailed in the second half, shooting 55 percent over the final 20 minutes.

The stars: N.C. State had five players in double figures, led by sophomore center Omer Yurtseven and redshirt junior guard Torin Dorn with 16 points each.

After the upset: Duke fell to No. 7 in the rankings and will try to rebound against Pittsburgh on Wednesday. N.C. State plays No. 19 Clemson at home Thursday night before traveling to No. 3 Virginia on Sunday.

Steve Wiseman: 919-419-6671, @stevewisemanNC

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