DURHAM, N.C. – Cassius Stanley saw the pass coming his way, soared high to corral the ball then threw it down with his right hand to throw the home crowd into a frenzy as Duke's lead ballooned.
The 12th-ranked Blue Devils had finally gotten loose in the second half, both from North Carolina State and the frustrations from a recent pair of losses.
Stanley had 14 of his 18 points after halftime while Duke used dominating work on the boards along with some zone defense to beat the Wolfpack 88-69 on Monday night, a big reversal from a blowout loss to N.C. State less than two weeks earlier.
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said back-to-back road losses at Wake Forest and reigning national champion Virginia had “knocked back” his players, but they responded well.
“We are developing,” Krzyzewski said. “By the way, if you don’t continue to develop throughout the year, it’s going to be sad for you.”
Fellow rookie Vernon Carey Jr. added 17 points for the Blue Devils, who shot 63% after halftime and had a run of 17 straight scoring possessions. Duke also dominated the Wolfpack on the glass (46-27), while its move away from its man and pressure defenses to deploy a zone late in the first half took N.C. State out of its early aggressive rhythm that had given the Wolfpack an eight-point lead.
Stanely said the zone helped Duke get loose in transition, too, with Tre Jones and Jordan Goldwire at the top to start the break.
“Once we get the rebound we’re out and we can run,” Stanley said. “It was a great thing to have all of us get the rebound and push it. I think that’s what jumpstarted us.”
The Blue Devils (24-6, 14-5 Atlantic Coast Conference) lost the first meeting 88-66 in Raleigh on Feb. 19 for Krzyzewski’s most lopsided loss to an unranked opponent in his four decades leading the program.
Devon Daniels had 14 points and nine rebounds to lead the Wolfpack (18-12, 9-10), who shot 50% in the first half but 38% after halftime.
“It was a great first half,” Wolfpack coach Kevin Keatts said. “It was a great start of the second half for the first seven or eight minutes, and we stopped doing the little things. We stopped defending and doing the things that got us the lead early in the game.”
N.C. State: The Wolfpack offered a best-case-scenario glimpse of potential with the first-meeting romp, but they've had a loss at last-place North Carolina and had to claw past the ACC's next-to-last team by beating Pittsburgh at home since. That sequence captured why N.C. State is on the bubble and still trying to bolster its NCAA Tournament resume, and this one sure would've helped.
Duke: The Blue Devils were coming off losses at Wake Forest and Virginia. Then there was the matter of that ugly first meeting with the Wolfpack, with Krzyzewski saying afterward that his team was “never there.” There certainly was no lack of edge after halftime Monday.
“You can’t overreact either way,” Krzyzewski said of making big changes in response to close wins or losses.
Johnson was dominant at the point in the first meeting for N.C. State with a career-best 28 points. And he had another strong start by utilizing ball screens to get into the paint, so Krzyzewski made the call to go zone with about 4 1/2 minutes left before halftime.
C.J. Bryce hit an immediate 3-pointer against the zone, but N.C. State managed just one field goal the rest of the half as Duke pushed ahead 38-36 at the break. Johnson, who had nine points in the first half, had just two after the break.
N.C. State won the rebounding battle in the first meeting by a 51-43 total, while its 15 offensive rebounds led to 25 second-chance points. This time, Duke nearly doubled N.C. State on the offensive boards (16-9) and had a 15-8 edge in second-chance points.
“When we didn’t score, we didn’t get back and we did a poor job of blocking out,” Keatts said. “That’s something that we've got to get better at. In our games that we win, we do a great job in that area.”
Graduate Justin Robinson, son of retired NBA great David Robinson, had 10 points and two 3-pointers off the bench for Duke, while fellow reserve Goldwire had 11. They each had six boards, too.
N.C. State: Instate ACC opponent Wake Forest visits the Wolfpack on Friday.
Duke: The Blue Devils host rival North Carolina on Saturday.
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