Duke gets defensive to win rematch with NC State

The Blue Devils have won five straight

Duke's Dereck Lively II pulls down a rebound away from NC State's Terquavion Smith and D.J. Burns Jr. during the Blue Devils’ win Tuesday in Durham. (Ethan Hyman / The News & Observer via AP)

DURHAM — Duke won a feisty, emotional rematch with NC State to cap an undefeated home record on Wednesday. The Blue Devils pulled ahead by 12 points then held off an NC State rally to win 71-67. The victory capped a 16-0 record at Cameron Indoor Stadium this year, making rookie head coach Jon Scheyer the first man in ACC history to go unbeaten at home in his first season as head coach.

The win also gave Duke a shot at a double-bye in the upcoming ACC Tournament. A win over UNC in Saturday’s season finale coupled with a Clemson loss to Notre Dame would give the Blue Devils the first two rounds off as a top-four seed.

The back-and-forth game was a far cry from the first meeting between the two teams. On Jan. 4, NC State ran Duke out of the gym from the opening tip, leading wire-to-wire on its way to a 24-point blowout of the Blue Devils at PNC Arena.

“I don’t even want to compare it to the last game,” said Scheyer, who praised his freshman-laden team’s development over the last two months.

“They played like freshmen (in the first game),” said NC State coach Kevin Keatts. “You can tell those guys have really grown up.”

The biggest strides appeared to be on defense. Duke was able to shut down several of State’s key players. Big man D.J. Burns scored 18 points on 7-of-10 shooting in the first game, but, defended by freshman Dereck Lively, he shot just 6 of 15 from the field on Wednesday. Lively, who took just one shot and logged 12 minutes in the first game, scored six points with 12 rebounds and two blocks in the game and was a force in the paint, altering Wolfpack shots throughout the night.

“You’ve got to be ready for the physical,” Lively said. “You’ve got to almost enjoy it. You’ve got to enjoy the pushing war, the elbows. You’ve got to be ready to get hit in the mouth, the throat, and do everything you can to win.”

Terquavion Smith, State’s leading scorer,had 24 points against Duke in Raleigh but went deep into the second half on Tuesday before logging his first points. Defended primarily by freshman Tyrese Proctor, Smith managed just eight points on 2-of-9 shooting and picked up a technical when he shoved Proctor during a stoppage in play. He also flirted with another technical during a late-game dust-up following a held ball before Burns yelled at him and removed him from the fray.

“I thought our defense was the key to the game,” Scheyer said. “It’s what we’ve hung our hat on all year long.”

Duke also got a boost from junior Jeremy Roach, who scored six of the team’s final 10 points on his way to a team-high 20.

“They were talking about how they were going to punk us and do all this stuff,” Roach said of NC State. “We took offense to that and said, ‘It’s not going to happen today.’”

Duke’s performance meant that a 26-point effort from the Wolfpack’s Jarkel Joiner was wasted. Joiner hit six 3-pointers, keeping State close whenever Duke appeared ready to pull away.

The win gave Duke a season-best five-game winning streak heading into the regular season finale in Chapel Hill in what promises to be another emotional clash between in-state rivals.

“It’s not easy for these guys with the pressure, the noise, whatever you want to call it,” Scheyer said of his team. “The way they’ve stuck together. This time of year, teams that have the best chance to move on are really together and have great belief. I think we have both of those things at a high level.”