Three Interesting talking points from No. 9 Duke’s basketball win over NC State

Prior to Monday’s game at PNC Arena, Duke coach Jon Scheyer praised N.C. State and Wolfpack coach Kevin Keatts. “The respect is there for Kevin, his team, and N.C. State,” Scheyer said on Saturday. “This group attended N.C. State last year. We understand how difficult it is here. “We understand how dangerous they are.” A difficult place? Last year, it was the Blue Devils, and the Pack led by 22 at halftime before winning by 24.

Blue Devils blitz Pack. Three takeaways from No. 9 Duke's ACC basketball  win over NC State. | Basketball | ArcaMax Publishing

When the Pack scored the first nine points of Monday’s game, with Pack supporters on their feet and roaring, Scheyer may have had a flashback or two. He also initiated a quick timeout. “It felt a little bit deja vu there the way the game started off,” Scheyer said afterward. However, this Duke “group” is a more seasoned, toughened crew. It entered the game rated ninth, performed what needed to be done, and won 79-64 at PNC Arena. “We showed poise, which you have to against these guys,” Scheyer went on to say. “Then a lot of toughness.”

The Blue Devils improved to 24-6 overall and 15-4 in the ACC, setting up a Saturday rematch with No. 7 North Carolina at Cameron Indoor Stadium and all that comes with it. It was another missed opportunity for the Pack (17-13, 9-10 ACC), who are running out of opportunities this season. State fell for the seventh time at home, all in ACC games, making it a disappointing Senior Night for D.J. Burns, Casey Morsell, DJ Horne, and former walk-on Alex Nunnally.

Burns scored a season-high 27 points in his final game at PNC Arena, but the Blue Devils were able to keep Horne, the ACC’s second-leading scorer, to eight. Despite his best efforts, Horne struggled to locate decent shots and missed his only 3-pointer. According to Scheyer, Duke’s strategy was to limit NC State’s 3-point attempts. If Burns lands his shots inside, so be it. “Burns is a handful, obviously,” Scheyer remarked. “But we took away their threes.” It can be painful at times to give up both, giving them to him and giving up threes. We just tried to make him work for everything. And we accomplished that.”

Jeremy Roach scored 21 points and freshman Jared McCain added 16 for the Devils, who shot 62.5% from the field in the second half, connecting on 20 of 32 shots. Duke, who routed Virginia on Saturday, averaged 1.41 points per possession in Monday’s game.

Neither team had enough time to prepare. The Wolfpack lost at UNC on Saturday, while the Blue Devils dominated Virginia at Cameron. They hadn’t played each other this season. After Scheyer’s early timeout, the Blue Devils scored the next 11 points. They led 33-30 at halftime, unable to contain Burns inside but with 19 first-half points from guards Tyrese Proctor and Roach, who kept things under control. The Devils led despite shooting 33.3% from the floor in the first half and missing 12 of their 16 3-point attempts. They did it with Kyle Filipowski, who went scoreless and sat out all but four minutes after being called for two fouls while guarding Burns.

With 12:10 left in regulation, the Pack led 46-45, but the Blue Devils surged ahead, making eight consecutive shots and 10 of 11 at one point. McCain and Filipowski each hit three-pointers, and McCain added a layup to put the Devils ahead 55-47 midway through the half. The Devils extended their lead, with McCain scoring four points to make it 73-59. There would be no comeback. “We had some defensive breakdowns that we had not allowed the entire game,” stated NCSU coach Kevin Keatts. “Obviously, after we stopped scoring, they went out in transition and made some shots. It’s a good basketball club, and those lapses are not acceptable while playing against a good basketball squad.

“You may make mistakes against some teams, but not the really excellent ones. The truly good ones make you pay, and I assumed they made us pay.”

Three key takeaways from the game:

DUKE POUNDS THE BOARDS

While the Blue Devils failed to make baskets for much of the first half, they were able to pull away by rebounding the majority of their missed shots. Duke concluded the first half with 14 offensive rebounds, which was nearly equal to its season best of 16 for the game. After NC State scored the first nine points of the game, Duke exploited their 13-4 edge in second-chance points, fuelled by rebounds, to lead 33-30 at halftime. This is despite the fact that the Blue Devils only made eight of their first 24 shots. The Blue Devils improved their shooting from there, building a double-digit advantage in the second half. Duke recorded a season-high 19 offensive rebounds.

BIG DAY FOR BURNS

The Pack’s Burns has had a mostly flat season, enjoying NIL living but not being as productive on the floor on game days.

But on Senior Day, with family present, he battled hard, was engaged from the start, and finished with 27 points. Duke elected not to double team the big man, and he paid the price, especially against Sean Stewart, a 6-9, 227-pound rookie who outweighed him by around 100 pounds. “I was pretty much using my size over him,” Burns admitted. “They have a bunch of small people that excel at areas other than strength. They’re good at a number of things, and that’s one of my strengths, so it worked out for me.”

Burns had 15 points at halftime on a 7-for-11 worksheet, muscling his way to the basket while also demonstrating some great spin moves for soft left-handed jumpers. Stewart gave up a three-point play to Burns in the second half, slamming his arms against the basket backstop following the foul. But Stewart also blocked a Burns attempt, surprised Burns, and beat him backdoor for a basket as Duke extended its lead in the second half. It would be Burns’ first 20-point game of the season. He has twice scored 19 points in a game, but he was scoreless for 12 minutes in a recent defeat to Florida State, spending the majority of the game on the bench.

Burns did not watch on Monday. But the Pack lacked the offensive firepower to defeat a rated Duke team.

POWER, STEWART MAKE THEIR MARKS

Duke’s leading scorer and rebounder, Filipowski, played only four minutes in the first half and 22 overall. That’s because he committed two early fouls in defending Burns. The Blue Devils held the advantage at halftime thanks to huge efforts from freshman TJ Power and Sean Stewart. Stewart played 11 minutes in the first half, more than he had in the previous 15 ACC games combined. Stewart’s turnover-free first-half performance, which included six points, prompted Scheyer to employ him in the second half as well.

Power, another 6-9 freshman, has seen his position in Duke’s lineup grow over the last three games. Power played 10 minutes in the first half, scoring three points on a 3-pointer, one rebound, one shot block, and an assist.

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