Less than a month after N.C. State knocked Duke out of the No. 1 spot in the nation, the Blue Devils exacted revenge on the Wolfpack, 98-85, in front of the Cameron Crazies on Thursday night.
After falling behind early, N.C. State mounted a nice comeback in the second half, but this game was never really in doubt. It was apparent right off the bat that Duke (20-2, 7-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) was bringing a level of play that the Wolfpack (16-7, 5-5) could not match.
This is a fact that seemed to even be apparent to N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried. With just 1:27 gone in this game, Gottfried took a timeout with his team trailing 8-2.
The timeout did not help. Duke waltzed into halftime with a 58-37 advantage.
The Wolfpack shot a respectable 43.2 percent from the field in the first, but that was well behind the 61.3 percent the Blue Devils accomplished.
Duke was hitting its open shots and it was moving the ball—it wracked up 14 assists in the first half alone. Seth Curry led the way at half with 18 points; he finished with 26.
It was a far different story in the second half, as shots stopped falling for Duke and started falling for N.C. State.
Forward Richard Howell caught fire for the Wolfpack, but he fouled out with just under four minutes remaining in the game. He did his share of damage before leaving, as he finished with 23 points on 11-of-18 shooting and also pitched in nine boards.
The Wolfpack had actually cut the lead to single digits, but with Howell's departure coming in what was ruled a flagrant foul, the Wolfpack were not able to sustain their momentum.
Dick Vitale was not surprised by Duke's torrid start. He knew they were out to even the score:
Duke in no surprise ripping NCSU - PAYBACK— Dick Vitale (@DickieV) February 8, 2013
There were some eye-grabbing stats coming out of Duke's impressive first half. CBS Sports' Will Brinson highlighted this hard-to-believe number:
Mercy RT @davidcmorrison: Duke scored 1.66 points per possession in the first half (58 on 35). Got. Dang.— Will Brinson (@willbrinson) February 8, 2013
Duke's Mason Plumlee was outstanding in this game. He finished with 30 points on an ultraefficient 9-of-11 shooting. Good enough for CBS Sports' Jeff Goodman to tweet this:
Mason Plumlee playing his way back into the National Player of the Year convo. Burke is No. 1 and McDermott and Plumlee on his heels.— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanCBS) February 8, 2013
Meanwhile, the Twitter account for Duke basketball was feeling pretty confident in the first half, and it even called out its opponent's intensity:
Make that three dunks for Mason Plumlee tonight and two timeouts from Mark Gottfried. The intensity just isn't there for State right now— Duke Basketball (@dukebasketball) February 8, 2013
The story was a little different in the second half:
NCSU very sharp at 86% from floor this half. Duke is 36%. 82-67 with 7:55 left.— Duke Basketball (@dukeblueplanet) February 8, 2013
Apparently, intensity was not involved in the change of shooting fortunes.