It's one thing to be picked ahead of Duke or North Carolina in the preseason, it's another for N.C. State to beat its neighbors in blue.
Richard Howell and C.J. Leslie helped No. 20 N.C. State knock off No. 1 Duke 84-76 on Saturday at PNC Arena.
N.C. State, the preseason ACC favorite, had lost 21 of 25 games to Duke since 2000, including last year's 78-73 game in Durham which saw Duke erase a 20-point N.C. State lead in the second half.
With a sellout crowd and throwback atmosphere to the 1980s, N.C. State rose to the challenge, or "opportunity" as coach Mark Gottfried called it on Friday.
The ACC standings now look like the 1980s, too, after the State win. The Pack is 3-0 in the ACC for the first time since the 1988-89 season the last time State won a regular-season conference title.
Howell's 16 points and 18 rebounds offset Duke's first-half advantage on the boards and Leslie scored a game-high 25 points, most at the expense of Duke forward Mason Plumlee.
N.C. State (14-2, 3-0 ACC) would create some space in the second half but Duke (15-1, 2-1) would fight back. A 10-2 run by Duke, with five straight points coming from Seth Curry (22 points), cut what was an eight-point N.C. State lead to 58-57 with 10:31 left in the game.
Leslie scored six of State's next eight points, and got Amile Jefferson to foul out in the process, to stretch the Pack's lead back to 66-57 with 7:44 left.
Duke got as close as four points, twice in the final 3 minutes, but Curry suffered an apparent leg injury with 3:15 left and Duke didn't have the firepower to keep up without him.
The Blue Devils dominated the glass in the first half, with 11 offensive rebounds, but had only two in the second half.
Duke, without forward Ryan Kelly, led by as many as eight points in the first half. Jefferson and Josh Hairston combined for 12 points and seven rebounds in the first half but Duke missed Kelly's experience in the second half.
Scott Wood made three 3-pointers for the Pack in the first half and his four-point play cut Duke's lead to 27-23 with 8:35 but Wood picked up a technical on the play.
Wood made a 3 in front of Duke's bench and was fouled by Tyler Thornton. After the shot, Wood stopped to talk trash to Thornton, who got up and elbowed Wood.
Leslie kept State's offense going with Wood on the bench in foul trouble. He made four of his eight shots and played all 20 minutes in the first half.
N.C. State took a 33-29 lead at 3:48 after a breakaway dunk by Rodney Purvis, which prompted a timeout from Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski.
Off the timeout, Curry buried a 3-pointer, one of two, and the teams were knotted at 39 before T.J. Warren hit a runner with 2 seconds left in the half to make it 41-39.
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