Cat Barber said Tuesday that his team would be ready for Duke, and he was not lying. NC State put together one of its best offensive performances of the season, with four different players in double figures, led by Barber's 29. Alas, the Wolfpack also had to play defense, and it was up against a high-powered Blue Devils attack. Duke made the big plays in the final 90 seconds to take a 92-89 victory.
NC State trailed by as many as nine in the second half after leading by three points at halftime. And that was the margin with just five minutes left, but the Pack found the energy for one more charge. The score was even at 89 in the waning stages when Marshall Plumlee, of all people, converted a three-point play to put Duke back ahead.
The Pack had its chances to respond in the final minute, but a botched final possession killed whatever hope the team had left. So it goes again, a close-but-no-cigar contest, with State on the short end, and the season over. It's a bummer, but I appreciate the fight they showed in this game and all season.
If this is where Barber's NC State career ends, he'll at least have the consolation of knowing he went out playing his best. He made 10-18 shots from the field, including 4-7 from three. He dished out seven assists against one turnover. It was a vintage performance, and he had help! Malik-Abu scored 19 on 9-12 shooting, Caleb Martin added 16 on 7-13 shooting, and Maverick Rowan scored 15. Oh what could have been if support like this came more frequently.
NC State will have an offseason to dwell on that, and hopefully, learn a few things from it.