RALEIGH, N.C. (AP)—Duke’s defense was at its toughest. The offense looked better than usual. It all added up to one of the Blue Devils’ most complete performances of the season.
Freshman Jon Scheyer scored 20 points and DeMarcus Nelson added 15 as No. 14 Duke beat North Carolina State 79-56 on Saturday, giving the Blue Devils their third straight win since an 0-2 conference start.
Josh McRoberts and Greg Paulus each finished with 13 points for the Blue Devils (16-3, 3-2 Atlantic Coast Conference), who have won 25 of 28 in the series.
Facing an opponent that looked overmatched from the start, Duke—the ACC’s top scoring defense at 55.2 points per game—held the Wolfpack to 34 percent shooting with 20 turnovers that led to 25 points. But it was the Blue Devils’ play at the other end that was the biggest surprise.
Duke shot 53 percent behind a balanced scoring output. David McClure added 10 points, while freshman Gerald Henderson had eight—several coming on drives into the lane as part of the Blue Devils’ 40 points in the paint.
N.C. State (11-7, 1-4) had no answer defensively, falling behind by 16 points at halftime and trailing by as many as 26 late.
“If we play the right way, that’s how it should be every game,” Scheyer said of the team’s offensive balance. “We have a lot of different guys who can score the ball and make plays. I think we did a really good job of playing to each guy’s strengths today.”
Duke entered ranked last in the ACC in scoring (69 points) and ninth in shooting percentage at 47 percent. The Blue Devils had shot at least 50 percent just three times in the past 14 games before Saturday’s performance.
“We were playing together and we’re having a lot more fun when we’re making those kinds of connecting plays when we’re driving, kicking and throwing alley-oops to each other,” Paulus said. “Hopefully we can keep getting sharper and sharper.”
Duke was coming off an impressive defensive showing against Wake Forest less than two days earlier, holding the Demon Deacons to 40 points—their worst total in a half-century—in an easy home win. Things didn’t look much different against the Wolfpack, with the Blue Devils shutting down N.C. State in an ugly first half full of missed shots and turnovers for the home team.
N.C. State managed just seven field goals with 16 turnovers against Duke’s aggressive defense. On the other end, the Blue Devils had little trouble getting the shots they wanted, repeatedly getting into the lane and taking a 41-25 lead at the break.
This was hardly the way new Wolfpack coach Sidney Lowe wanted to debut in the rivalry that began in the 1911-12 season. The former Wolfpack player took over in the spring after Herb Sendek bolted for Arizona State amid fan frustration with N.C. State’s motion offense and its inability to beat nearby ACC rivals Duke and North Carolina.
This one ended up looking a lot like the others.
“This game was very discouraging from the start,” Lowe said, “especially with the way we came out.”
Gavin Grant came in averaging 16 points per game, but struggled for seven on 1-for-6 shooting while being chased much of the way by Nelson. Meanwhile, the 6-foot-10 McRoberts made things difficult inside for Ben McCauley, altering plenty of his shots and holding the Wolfpack’s co-scoring leader at nearly 17 per game to nine on 2-for-8 shooting.
The Wolfpack struggled without point guard Engin Atsur, who had missed 11 of the past 12 games with an injured hamstring. Still, his presence probably wouldn’t have made that much of a difference.
“A loss in general is tough, but a loss like that on our home floor is really tough to swallow,” McCauley said. “I feel bad for all the fans that came out here to cheer us on. I wish we could have done a better job than we did.”
The Wolfpack made its best push by cutting the deficit to 46-34 early after the break, but Duke put the game away with a 10-0 spurt keyed by Scheyer and Nelson as well as a mistake by N.C. State’s Courtney Fells.
After Nelson started the run with a dunk, Fells went up for an easy putaway in the paint only to miss his second slam of the game. Fells was then called for a technical foul for trying to grab the ball while still holding onto the rim, allowing Scheyer to knock down two free throws for a 50-34 lead.
Nelson drained a 3-pointer from the left side on the next play, while Scheyer followed with his own 3 in front of the Duke bench off a turnover to make it 56-34 with 14:49 left.
“We are becoming better as a team,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “We prepared with passion and played with passion.”