Most games, NC State can at least match the athleticism of its opponent, shortcomings regardless. But this was not most games, this was Duke, and the Blue Devils easily leaned on their advantage of size, skill, and talent to outlast the Wolfpack.
It was Duke’s size advantage that was noticeable, and while the Pack didn’t play poorly, it was just no match for what Duke brought to the table.
Pace and Efficiency
NC State has to win games by being better on the glass and taking better care of the ball than its opponent—State fought hard and wasn’t far off in these respects, but Duke’s ability to turn its size advantage inside into easy offense was a big difference.
Duke shot well and grabbed nearly half the shots it did miss, and that’s really all there was to it. It’s not a surprising result, and it would have taken a particularly bad afternoon offensively for Duke to lose this game. The Blue Devils weren’t having it, though.
The encouraging thing for State is how well it played offensively, generally, and how it closed the gap in some key ways in that second half.
But this was always going to be a really difficult proposition, and not having Ernest Ross available sure didn’t help. Duke already had a significant physical advantage, and with Ross out and Ebe Dowuona in foul trouble, the Blue Devils took that full advantage.
Sometimes there’s just nothing you can do. Getting stops against this Duke team was a huge challenge, and State couldn’t find an answer, no matter the defensive looks it presented.