Smith, Joiner lead Wolfpack to historic victory over Blue Devils

NC State rolled to an 84-60 win over rival Duke

North Carolina State's Terquavion Smith celebrates making a three-point shot during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Duke in Raleigh, N.C., Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2023. (Karl B DeBlaker / AP Photo)

RALEIGH — NC State laid the boot to the No. 16 Duke on Wednesday, running the Blue Devils out of PNC Arena by a final score of 84-60. 

The 24-point victory was the largest margin of victory that an unranked ACC team has had over a ranked Duke team and gave the Wolfpack (12-4, 2-3 ACC) a key Quad 1 victory.

It took until the game’s 10th possession — five each way — and 11th shot of the game before the first points were scored when NC State redshirt junior Greg Gantt scored in transition after a steal and feed by graduate transfer Jarkel Joiner. 

By Duke’s first timeout, the Wolfpack were leading 13-0. The lead was stretched further to 22-4 when Duke (11-4, 2-2 ACC) took its second timeout having shot just 1 of 15 from the field and surrendering eight points off of seven turnovers.

“That was not a good enough performance or effort on our part, and that’s on me,” said Duke coach Jon Scheyer. “Unfortunately, there’s some moments I’ve been through as a player, as a coach, where you have a night like this and it’s not OK. It’s not OK to have a night like this. We have to learn from it. We have to grow and change, and I take responsibility for that as a coach. This was a disappointing night, but credit to them.”

The Wolfpack’s defense threw the Blue Devils out of sync all night despite Duke’s supposed advantage in the paint. 

The Wolfpack scored 30 points off 21 turnovers and had nine blocks and 10 steals while limiting Duke to 39.6% from the field and 33.3% from beyond the arc.

“I think the first four minutes I felt like we were locked in,” said NC State coach Kevin Keatts. “Now, could we sustain that? I didn’t know that. The last couple of days we really concentrated on defending. I talked more about defense in shoot-around than I did our offense. So I would say that the first four or five minutes I thought we were going to be locked in. I was just hoping we could play that way for the entire game.”

The Wolfpack entered the game with key injuries, with Dusan Mahorcic out for the season and the announcement before the game that Jack Clark was out indefinitely with a core muscle injury. But the Wolfpack have seen players step up to fill those minutes.

That includes graduate DJ Burns, who Keatts admitted before the game wouldn’t be getting as many minutes if not for the injuries.

But the big man continues his rise against the Blue Devils with 18 points, two assists and four blocks. He was even serenaded by the PNC Arena crowd after scoring 10 straight points for the Wolfpack in the second half.

“I don’t know if there’s a better back-to-the-basket scorer in college basketball than him,” Keatts said of the Burns. “And it’s weird because everybody’s going more to face up, five-man and guys that can shoot the 3. And here’s a guy that can back you down. He can score, he’s got a great touch and, you know, he’s been really good for us.”

But the real stars of the night were the Wolfpack’s dynamic guard duo of Jarkel Joiner and Terquavion Smith.

Whether it was Smith’s steal-and-shoot 3-pointer or Joiner’s contested buzzer-beater corner three to end the first half, it just seemed like all of the important shots were going in for the Wolfpack.

The duo combined for 45 points, five steals and nine rebounds, with Joiner adding nine assists without committing a turnover.

“I sat those two guys down and I said, ‘We’re going to be as good as you guys are,’” Keatts said of Smith and Joiner, “‘and you guys can’t be average.’ When I looked at it, against Clemson, they were 7 for 31. I was like, ‘That’s not good enough. And I give you a lot of offensive freedom, so you guys have to be better as a group.’ And I thought they stepped up today. We’re only gonna go as far as (they) take us.”

Duke has now dropped its first two ACC road games, losing by double digits in each, and has a game at Boston College on Saturday.

“You need to be aggressive,” Scheyer said. “The questions you guys are asking me are the things that we’ve talked about. That doesn’t get you a win. That puts you in the game. But then you still have to execute, you still have to know the game plan or scouting report.

“We have to figure that out. That can’t be the way. That’s not how I’ve approached this team. I don’t want these guys to play that way. I want us to be aggressive and go for it. And so we have to do that. That’s the bottom line.”