- Robbi Pickeral, College Basketball
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DURHAM, N.C. -- Playing at fourth-ranked Duke without starting point guard Lorenzo Brown? That was going to be difficult. Losing starting big man Richard Howell to a foul-out during a second-half comeback? That pretty much sealed it for NC State.
The Blue Devils, although undermanned themselves, nonetheless led the Wolfpack from start to finish, surviving a second-half rally and winning 98-85 to hand State its third straight loss while winning their fourth in a row. A quick look at the game:
Turning point: Trailing by as many as 19 points early, State cut into Duke’s lead with an 8-0 run that made the score 41-29 with about five minutes left in the first half. But as Wolfpack rookie T.J. Warren was scoring to complete the run, teammate Scott Wood was on the floor at State’s defensive end. His injury was not immediately clear, but with Wood in the locker room, the Blue Devils outscored the Wolfpack 17-8 to close the half, and took a 58-37 lead into the break.
Wood started the second half, and NC State immediately started making shots -- converting 85.7 percent through the first 12 minutes and cutting their deficit to 84-75 on back-to-back buckets by Richard Howell with 4 1/2 minutes left. But Duke guard Quinn Cook countered with a bucket, and Howell, who had 23 points and nine rebounds, picked up his fifth foul and earned a technical for catching Mason Plumlee with an elbow. That pushed Duke’s lead back to 88-75, and it was enough of a cushion.
Player(s) of the game: Plumlee finished with 30 points and nine rebounds, and Duke guard Seth Curry had 26.
NC State freshman point guard Tyler Lewis, starting in place of Brown, finished with 13 points.
Number(s) to note: The victory marked Duke’s 29th 20-win season under head coach Mike Krzyzewski. According to ESPN Stats & Information, he is currently one of five in NCAA history to have that many 20-win seasons along with Jim Boeheim (34), Dean Smith (30), Bob Knight (29) and Lute Olson (29). ... It marked the third time this season NC State has allowed an ACC foe to score at least 50 points in the first half.
Etc.: The Blue Devils played without forward Josh Hairston, who hasn’t practiced since the Feb. 2 win at Florida State because of an infection that developed in his right arm. Also still without Ryan Kelly (foot injury), the Blue Devils were left with eight scholarship players. ... Without Brown, NC State was down to seven scholarship players.
Up next: The Blue Devils play at Boston College on Sunday; NC State plays at Clemson the same day.