DURHAM — Duke dominated inside on its way to a 88-73 win over visiting NC State on Saturday.
The Wolfpack were without starting center Manny Bates, who suffered a season-ending injury in November, and didn’t have anyone who could match up with the Blue Devils’ post players, leading to a strong performance inside for Duke.
Duke had a 58-38 edge on points in the paint and was led by center Mark Williams, who had a season-high 19 points. He added 11 rebounds for his third double-double of the year and also had eight blocked shots, tied for ninth-most by a Blue Devils player in history.
“Let’s talk about the day he had,” NC State coach Kevin Keatts said of Williams. “He was tremendous. I think he was the difference in the game.”
Paolo Banchero also had a big day, scoring 21 with eight rebounds. Williams and Banchero combined to shoot 17 of 23 from the field.
“Our big guys were terrific,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “Mark almost had a triple-double. Paolo had his usual good game. Theo (John) really contributed. … Our big guys were the key factor in tonight’s game, no question.”
John, a graduate transfer, scored 10 points for his first double-figure scoring game since last February when the Marquette team he was on beat UNC at the Dean Dome.
“That’s an NBA frontcourt line,” Keatts said. “They completely dominated us.”
Trevor Keels helped open things up inside with two early 3-pointers. Keels finished with nine assists to go with 12 points and five steals.
“Trevor played his best game since the start of the season,” Krzyzewski said. “He made a couple of passes to Mark when momentum was changing or could have changed.”
Duke trailed 9-2 early but rallied to tie the score at 15. Much like they did in the previous game at Wake Forest, the Blue Devils had a rally spanning the half to help get breathing room. Duke scored seven of the last nine points of the first half, then opened the second half on a 6-0 run and had an 18-6 run spanning halftime.
Krzyzewski made his return to the Duke bench after missing Wednesday’s game at Wake Forest with non-COVID viral symptoms.
“I had two really difficult days,” Krzyzewski said. “We had an hour and a half come-to-Jesus meeting on Monday (following the loss to Miami). Then we had a good practice that afternoon. That night, I don’t know … something hit me. I thought I had COVID. I had so many of the symptoms. I had no energy at all. Just fatigue. I couldn’t keep my eyes open.”
“I came in the next day and said, ‘Something’s wrong,’” he continued. “They sent me home. I tried to go to Winston-Salem (on Wednesday) and the doc said, ‘You’re an idiot.’ … I feel better now, other than the fatigue.”
NC State appeared on the verge of getting blown out as Duke built a 19-point lead in the second half, but the Wolfpack battled back and had the deficit down to single digits late. The Pack was led by Terquavion Smith, who scored 19 points, and Dereon Seabron, who had 16 points and 10 rebounds.