Duke Basketball: Loss to NC State a Reminder That Defense Is Key for Blue Devils

Ryan RudnanskySenior Writer IJanuary 15, 2013

RALEIGH, NC - JANUARY 12:  Coach Mike Krzyzewski of the Duke Blue Devils watches his team during a loss to the North Carolina State Wolfpack at PNC Arena on January 12, 2013 in Raleigh, North Carolina.  (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
Grant Halverson/Getty Images

Duke came into its matchup against NC State on Saturday ranked in the top 20 in points per game.

But the Blue Devils found out first-hand what happens when you don't play defense against an explosive offense.

NC State shocked Duke on Saturday, 84-76, when the Wolfpack shot 51 percent from the floor. Five different players scored in double figures for the home team, including junior forward C.J. Leslie, who went 9-of-16 from the floor en route to a game-high 25 points.

This was, of course, Duke's biggest test of the season...at least defensively. The Wolfpack not only rank eighth in points per game this season, they rank first in field goal percentage (52.8 percent, via TeamRankings.com).

Duke may have beaten ranked teams Kentucky, Louisville and Ohio State before Saturday's clash, but none of those squads compare to NC State offensively.

If anything, the Blue Devils discovered on Saturday that having a high-scoring offense, complete with Mason Plumlee and Seth Curry, isn't going to send them to the NCAA title game alone. If they are going to get through opponents with dynamic offenses, they have to tighten up their defense.

Of course, Mike Krzyzewski knows this all too well. He hasn't won four national titles for nothing. He knows that, without defense, there is no national championship.

Duke's first loss of the season isn't the end of the world, but it should serve as a lesson to the Blue Devils. Perhaps the loss will catapult the team moving forward, ensuring the Blue Devils stand on guard the next time they are faced with a daunting challenge defensively.

Duke faces NC State again on Feb. 7. How Coach K's squad fares in that matchup will be telling.


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