State Now

Duke ✔ ... UNC ✔ ... How NCSU beat both the Blue Devils and the Tar Heels this season

Beating both Duke and North Carolina in the same season is a big accomplishment for any ACC team.

For N.C. State, it’s not rare, though.

The Wolfpack has beaten both teams in the same season three times in the past 10 years. This month, N.C. State beat No. 2 Duke 96-85 on Jan. 6 at home, then beat No. 10 UNC 95-91 in overtime in Chapel Hill on Jan. 27.

The last time the Wolfpack beat both Duke and UNC was in the 2014-15 season, which is also the last time N.C. State played in the NCAA tournament. N.C. State also beat both teams during the 2012-13 season.

Here are five reasons why the Wolfpack was able to beat both Duke and UNC this season:

Better than average shooting

N.C. State has made 45.7 percent of his shots overall and 33.9 percent of its 3-pointers this season.

On Jan. 27 in Chapel Hill, the Wolfpack struggled on 2-pointers, hitting just 41.3 percent of those and shooting 44.7 percent overall. But the great equalizer was the 3-pointer. N.C. State hit 15 of 30 (50 percent).

On Jan. 6 against Duke at home, N.C. State’s overall shooting percentage finished at 50.7 percent. That’s one of only five times this season the Wolfpack hit more than half its shots in a game.

Sharing is caring

Sometimes good shooting is a matter of luck. But not always.

Good passing leads to better shots, which should lead to a better shooting percentage and more points.

N.C. State collected 20 assists against UNC, led by Markell Johnson’s 11.

The Wolfpack had 17 assists against Duke, a game when Johnson was suspended.

N.C. State averages 16 assists per game. In those two wins, the Wolfpack averaged 18.5.

Treasuring the basketball

While the Wolfpack plays fast and likes to push the tempo, turnovers haven’t been a big problem this season.

N.C. State averages just 12 per game. The Wolfpack turns the ball over on 16.7 percent of its possession, which according to KenPom.com puts N.C. State No. 50 in the country. Pretty good.

That was especially true against Duke and UNC.

The Wolfpack had 10 turnovers against Duke, giving it up on just 13.3 percent of its possessions.

At UNC, N.C. State turned it over just nine times in a game that went into overtime. That means the Wolfpack turned the ball over on just 11.1 percent of its possessions.

Guarding the 3-point line

N.C. State’s opponents have made 33 percent of their 3-point shots against the Wolfpack. That puts N.C. State 78th in the country.

UNC hit only 4 of 19 against N.C. State for 21.1 percent. Duke hit 3 of 15 against the Wolfpack for 20 percent.

On 3-point shots, the Wolfpack outscored the Tar Heels 45-12 and the Blue Devils 15-9.

Standing strong

Against both Duke and UNC, N.C. State fell behind but never let the deficit grow too big.

Duke led N.C. State by 11 points, 27-16, with 9:30 to play in the first half. The Wolfpack had been drilled 88-58 at Notre Dame three nights before and the game against Duke seemed to be headed in the same direction.

But N.C. State scored the game’s next 15 points in 2 minutes and 32 seconds to lead 31-27 with 6:58 left in the half.

At UNC, the Tar Heels led by six points on three occasions in the first half and three more times in the second half.

But the Wolfpack remained steadfast, never letting the lead grow any more and paving the way for the upset win.

Steve Wiseman: 919-419-6671, @stevewisemanNC

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