This one hurts. A lot. And it will for a while.
Dennis Smith scored 32 points, and NC State rallied from a late deficit to stun the Blue Devils 84-82 in Cameron.
NC State (14-7, 3-5) trailed most of the game, but at the end used their defensive length to pressure the Blue Devils, forcing the Blue Devils to take contested shots, while making their own. Smith in particular was spectacular, making several threes with hands in his face and driving to the basket with ease.
Guard Abdul Malik-Abu scored 19 points on 8-12 shooting while playing excellent perimeter defense, while forward Ted Kapita had 14 points and 10 rebounds before fouling out.
Duke (15-5, 3-4), going with the line-up that worked so well in the Miami game, had stretches where they could not be stopped, and then stretches where they could not do a thing on offense.
Guard Luke Kennard led the Blue Devils with 20 points, while forward Jayson Tatum had 16. Guard Grayson Allen had 13 points, but was only 1-9 from 3, as he clearly was struggling with the dislocated pinkie he suffered against Miami.
Duke was down 83-77 with 23 seconds left, managed to cut it to 84-82 with 5 seconds left and get the ball back, but Tatum turned the ball over on a wild drive to the basket.
For NC State, who has had a very up and down season, this is the type of win that can turn their season around, giving them the confidence that they can compete.
For Duke, who had their Top 8 players available, this was a baffling loss to add to a baffling season. The Blue Devils are clearly very talented, but the whole is less than the sum of its parts. There is still time for Duke to gel, as they have shown games of sheer dominance this season. But that time is ticking. And it’s ticking away very quickly.