NC State lost 88-78 to Duke in a game that once felt rather promising for the Wolfpack. I know this must have shocked everyone as it occurred, but NC State shot remarkably well from deep in the first half. They cooled off for a 8-21 long range total for the game as the final 20 minutes brought a return to normalcy.
State lost any sort of offensive rhythm during the second half and allowed Duke to score 52 points. The aforementioned promising vibe was felt when State took a 43-36 lead into the break. It appeared that State had figured out Duke's zone in amassing this lead. With a fast pace and threes falling, the upset could be sensed for a few fleeting moments.
Anthony Barber had a usual Cat game for most of this contest. He scored an efficient 19 points on 8-14 shooting. Sharing duties on offense was never an issue for the Wolfpack. Abdul-Malik Abu had 14 points on a 6-for-9 clip from the field. Cody Martin had 13 points and Maverick Rowan had 12, although Rowan missed numerous good looks on the way to a 3-11, 1-8 from three game.
The problem was defense, in particular against Brandon Ingram and Grayson Allen of Duke. Allen scored 28 points on 11-17 shooting as he featured an array of impressive drives and knockdown mid-range jumpers. State simply appeared helpless in attempting to contain the likely future top-three NBA pick Ingram, a blend of athleticism and shiftiness who ended up with 26 points. He also made 4-of-6 threes.
My faith in NC State snagging this win took a major hit once the second half began. Duke erased State's lead in a matter of brief and ominous sequences. Abu also found himself in foul trouble and it's never a positive sign when Barber comes up hobbling. Barber's injury didn't appear hugely serious, but it seemed to slow him down considerably. Too much Allen/Ingram and a lost touch on offense doomed NC State.
Of course, the positives are how well State shot in the early parts of the game. There was a genuine effort throughout the contest even as Duke's late game lead ballooned into an impossible to conquer total. The problem for this team is mostly defense and shooting. I consider the temporary first half shooting explosion to be more of an unexplainable occurrence rather than a norm to be relied upon. Productive shooting won't be a regularity until (or if) Terry Henderson returns.
After the feel good win against Pittsburgh, NC State now drops to 1-6 in ACC play and 11-9 overall with the loss to Duke. State's next game is a Wednesday, 1/27 matchup with Georgia Tech in Raleigh that tips at 8:00 PM ET.