NC State upsets No. 7 Duke 88-74
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP)—The final seconds were ticking away when Sidney Lowe finally broke into a smile and pumped his fists at his players from the North Carolina State sideline.
Then he vanished, mobbed by his assistant coaches as he disappearing in a crowd of red-clad fans running to midcourt to celebrate.
“I didn’t know they were going to storm the court,” Lowe joked.
He probably should have expected it considering the way the Wolfpack played Wednesday night.
Tracy Smith scored 23 points in a dominant performance inside while Dennis Horner added 20 to help N.C. State stun No. 7 Duke 88-74, giving the Wolfpack its first home win against Mike Krzyzewski’s Blue Devils since 2004.
It also was the Wolfpack’s first win in the series overall since the first round of the 2007 Atlantic Coast Conference tournament, Lowe’s first season coaching the program he led to a national championship as a player in 1983.
Since that season, the Wolfpack (13-6, 2-3 ACC) had struggled to gain footing in the league. That led to fan frustration about N.C. State’s inability to keep up with highly ranked rivals Duke and North Carolina, both located within a 30-minute drive in the so-called Triangle of Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill.
Wednesday night’s upset of the Blue Devils (15-3, 3-2) is the rousing win that Wolfpack fans have been desperate for and was reminiscent of an upset of the Tar Heels in Lowe’s first season. It’s the kind that could be huge for Lowe as he maintains his hold on the job in coming seasons.
Perhaps there’s still some magic left in the red blazer Lowe wore Wednesday, the one he breaks out for rivalry games.
“Obviously, this is a huge win for us,” said Smith, who celebrated his 22nd birthday Wednesday and spoke to reporters wearing a red, pointed birthday hat a fan gave him after the game. “Coach told us to go out (in the second half), play hard and have fun. And we had a lot of fun tonight.”
Smith went 10 for 12 from the floor to lead a balanced offense that had five players in double figures. Most impressively, N.C. State shot 58 percent— including 64 percent in a first-half performance that charged up the home crowd — while the Blue Devils hit just 39 percent.
N.C. State led by 10 points in the first half before it was cut to 41-38 at the break. But the Wolfpack scored on five of six possessions to start the second half to push the lead back up to double figures, then boosted it to 69-52 on Horner’s dunk with 8:53 left.
Perhaps even more surprising, the same team that couldn’t hold late leads in home losses to Florida and Virginia this month never let the Blue Devils back in it. Duke clawed to within eight points three times, yet couldn’t get enough stops against the sharp-shooting Wolfpack to make it even tighter.
“They were terrific,” Krzyzewski said. “We could’ve had a week off and we wouldn’t have beaten them tonight, but I wish we would’ve come with more energy than we came with tonight. They came with superb energy and you want to be in a game where both teams are playing at that level. We could never match their level of play.”
This was hardly the outcome anyone could have expected. Despite a tough loss at Georgia Tech this month, Duke had looked every bit like the top team in the ACC. All three of the Blue Devils’ league wins had come by at least 20 points, while their defense had allowed less than half of teams to even crack 40 percent shooting against them.
N.C. State, meanwhile, was picked to finish last in the league in the preseason. But as shot after shot dropped through the net, the Wolfpack looked determined not to squander this chance.
“This game is all about confidence,” Horner said. “We clicked as a team tonight. Everyone played well.”
Duke last got as close as eight at 74-66, but Javi Gonzalez (15 points) answered by draining a long 3-pointer over the outstretched arm of 6-foot-10 Miles Plumlee to beat the shot clock and push the lead back to double figures with 3:50 left. Duke got no closer than nine the rest of the night.
“We wanted to come out and not let them get any confidence, but they got so much confidence—and why shouldn’t they?” said Jon Scheyer, who had 21 points for the Blue Devils. “They hit everything. Give them credit. They punched us and we didn’t punch back.”
Kyle Singler scored 22 points to lead Duke.