It took until January 18th, but the Duke team that was picked to win the ACC and contend for a National Championship may have arrived. Duke used a combination of superb offense and high pressure defense to dismantle North Carolina State by a score of 95-60.
The Blue Devils had been struggling to get their offense and defense on the same page so far this season. There were no such issues this afternoon. Duke used their defense to create offense all day scoring 33 points off of 21 NC State turnovers, 14 of which came from Duke steals. Duke used the 2-team approach for the second game in a row to help with fatigue and was able to keep heavy pressure on the Wolfpack ball handlers for the entire game. NC State never got comfortable on offense, despite shooting 48% from the field.
Duke had 5 players scoring in double figures, led by Jabari Parker. The freshman officially came out of his "slump" scoring 23 points on 7-14 shooting, 2-2 from three point range and hitting all 7 of Duke's first half free throws. Parker was noticeably more aggressive, driving to the basket and rarely settling for jump shots. Jabari tied Duke legend Gene Banks for most 20 point games as a freshman, with 11. It was a very impressive performance for Parker, considering he sat for the final 4:48 of the game.
Rasheed Sulaimon seems to have found his groove, scoring 13 points to go along with 6 assists. Rodney Hood and Andre Dawkins scored 11 and point guard Quinn Cook added 10. Amile Jefferson had 9 points, but made his presence known in the rebounding game.
NC State opened the game with a 13-0 rebounding edge over the first 6 minutes of the game. Duke out-rebounded the Wolfpack 35-19 over the remainder of the game, led by Jefferson, who had 8. Jabari Parker added 7 boards and Josh Hairston had 5, but 4 of those came on the offensive end of the floor.
With the win Duke improved to 14-4 on the season with a record of 3-2 in the ACC.
Duke had everyone playing at a high level for the first time since the opener against Davidson and scored over 80 points for the first time this season in ACC play. The real highpoints for Duke today were their defense and rebounding. The intensity level carried over from the Virginia win and Duke maintained constant ball pressure, preventing NC State from running any kind of consistent offense. It was a true team effort. Three Blue Devils had at least 3 steals. The Wolfpack were the bigger team, but Duke was able to combat the size with aggressive team rebounding to win the battle of the boards. Amile Jefferson is playing really intelligent basketball in the post and Jabari Parker's increased presence in the paint helped Duke make up for their lack of size.
If the win over Virginia served as the energizer for the Duke team, the win over NC State was a confidence builder. It also showed everyone that the Duke team that opened the year with a ton of hype is still here. The next step for the Blue Devils will be to continue to play at this level for the rest of the season, particularly on the road, and not just be a one game flash of potential. Duke has a chance to get their first road win of the season in their next game, Wednesday, January 22, on the road against Miami.
Of note: 41st President of the United States George Bush was in attendance, he is the first United States President to attend a Duke basketball game at Cameron Indoor Stadium. The 2013 ACC Coastal Division Champion Duke Football team was honored at halftime.