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NC State can’t keep up with Duke in 88-69 loss

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24 minutes of good basketball. Too bad the game is 40 minutes long.

NCAA Basketball: N.C. State at Duke Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

For more than half of basketball on Monday night, it seemed NC State might have a chance to get another huge resume win in its quest for the NCAA Tournament. When things went bad though, they went bad fast. The result was State dropping its tenth ACC game of the year, this one a 88-69 loss to Duke in Cameron Indoor Stadium, which is a stadium that is indoors, almost like an arena.

The Pack got off to a good start on Monday, again having success taking the Blue Devils off the dribble and forcing their big men into ball screens that Duke has proven it can’t defend. NC State was definitely the aggressor early, and another strong effort from Markell Johnson kept State ahead for almost the entirety of the first 20 minutes. It took a 36-30 lead into the final minutes of the half, a lead that could have been bigger save a handful of blown transition opportunities.

Krzyzewski switched to a zone late in the first and that was when things started to unravel for the Pack. Duke’s late first half run gave the home team a 38-36 lead at the break, and the Devils took over down the stretch in the second frame for what turned out to be a blowout win. State was outscored 44-23 over the final 16 minutes of the game.

State actually handled the zone pretty well early in the second half, but Duke stopped turning the ball over and really turned on the offense, and the Pack simply couldn’t keep up with a better team playing its best ball. State’s defense faded right around the same time the offense did, and Duke scored on every single possession over a 10+ minute stretch on its way to a 50 point second half. That’ll do it.

The Pack was absolutely killed on the boards the whole game, which contributed heavily to its wilting in the final 15 minutes. Also contributing was another sluggish shooting effort. State was again dreadful shooting from three, making just 5 of 21 attempts. Some of these were wide open looks created by great zone offense, but somebody ultimately has to make the shot. Nobody could tonight.

It’s a frustrating loss considering how competitive the Pack was for the first 24 minutes of the game, but there’s no question the better team took care of its business. The loss drops State to 9-10 in the ACC and 18-12 overall. The NCAA Tournament is still very much within reach, but it would be wise to not lose the season finale against Wake Forest.