As I predicted before the game, Duke lost to North Carolina State on Saturday, Jan. 12 by a final score of 84-76. No. 20 N.C. State will see themselves move up a few spots in the rankings, while Duke will most likely drop out of the top spot.
In Duke’s first loss of the season they had substantial performances from their players, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the great game from Richard Howell, C.J. Leslie, Lorenzo Brown, and Scott Wood. The Blue Devils had junior forward Josh Hairston fill-in for the injured Ryan Kelly. He performed well with 8 points and 5 rebounds in 25 minutes, but it was the surprising Amile Jefferson that filled the statistical void from Kelly being sidelined. Jefferson chipped in 10 points, 4 rebounds, and 2 blocked shots in just 12 minutes. Jefferson did rack up 5 fouls, which resulted in him fouling out with 8 minutes reaming in the second half. His foul trouble is a result of his 195 lb. frame, and being inexperienced. Trying to match-up against seniors Howell and Leslie is a daunting task even for Mason Plumlee, never mind the freshman Jefferson.
Plumlee gave coach Mike Krzyzewski a double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds. He also blocked 2 shots and got 4 steals defensively. Also contributing significantly were point guard Quinn Cook and wing-man Seth Curry. Cook had 17 points and 7 assists, but eventually fouled out, while Curry scored 22 points. Duke had three players foul out total, and capitalizing, N.C. State shot 87% at the charity stripe.
Free throw shooting wasn’t the only factor that led to the Wolfpack’s victory over the tough Blue Devils. Leslie was unstoppable scoring 23 points and recorded 2 blocked shots. Howell had a double-double more impressive than his counterpart Plumlee. Howell finished the contest with 16 points, 18 rebounds, and 2 steals. There was another double-double logged with Lorenzo Brown who had 12 points and 13 assists. Lastly, Wood was super efficient going 3-for-3 from behind the arc, and 5-for-5 at the free throw line.
Ultimately Duke could continue to slip down the ranks during ACC play if Kelly is sidelined for an extended period. They will face a slumping, but capable, Georgia Tech squad on Thursday, Jan. 17.