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Maryland (11-7, 3-2) at N.C. State (1-7, 1-4), 9 p.m. Monday, PNC Arena, Raleigh, ESPNU

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Quick turnaround for reeling Wolfpack

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After Duke’s 95-60 demolition of N.C. State Saturday, Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski was asked if it was his team’s best performance of the season.

“Yeah,” Krzyzewski answered, “because I think (N.C.) State’s good.”

The question for N.C. State, after five losses in seven games, is can the it back up the Duke coach’s assessment?

The Wolfpack (11-7, 1-4 ACC) gets a chance to answer Monday night at home against Maryland (11-7, 3-2). N.C. State’s psyche has mostly been on tilt since the second half of a 68-64 home loss to Missouri back on Dec. 28.

Instead of a second resume-building win over an SEC team (N.C. State won at Tennessee on Dec. 18), the Wolfpack squandered a double-digit lead in the second half against the Tigers and their confidence has been sporadic ever since.

The Wolfpack started strong against Pittsburgh on Jan. 4 but eventually blew a big lead during a 74-62 home loss. It rebounded to win at Notre Dame on Jan. 7.That win may have been a product of weak competition. The Fighting Irish beat struggling Virginia Tech Sunday for their first win since beating Duke Jan. 4.

N.C. State fought hard during a 70-69 loss at Wake Forest last Wednesday but that was sandwiched between a 31-point home loss to Virginia and Saturday’s 35-point loss at Duke. It had been 12 years since the Wolfpack suffered two 30-point ACC losses in the same season.

The Wolfpack’s biggest problems have been on defense. It gave up 48 points in the second half to Pitt, 48 in the first half to Virginia and 50 in the second half to Duke.

N.C. State showed some promise on defense in the first half at Duke Saturday. Sophomore forward T.J. Warren blocked a 3-point attempt by Rasheed Sulaimon about five minutes into the first half at the top of the key and turned the defensive play into a transition basket.

Later in the first half, freshman forward Kyle Washington rejected a dunk attempt by Duke guard Andre Dawkins.

The Wolfpack couldn’t build on either play. It struggled to pressure the ball, which was supposed to be a strength of freshman guard Cat Barber and junior guard Desmond Lee, while the forwards struggled with ball screens.

“We have to work on that and keep getter better at those things,” Gottfried said.

Before the season, Gottfried knew there would be struggles for his inexperienced team this season, but he also hoped there would be significant defensive improvement from the 2012-13 season.

This team has been better at blocking shots but it hasn’t been able to create turnovers or get out in transition like last season’s NCAA tournament team.

Duke, like Virginia and Pitt before them, was able to drive to the rim at will against N.C. State’s defense.

“It started for us with our inability to defend somebody off the dribble,” Gottfried said. “That hurts.”

At 1-4 in the ACC, the Wolfpack finds its season in a tailspin. With three straight conference home games – against Maryland, Georgia Tech and Florida State – it can still recover and prove Krzyzewski’s opinion to be correct.

Giglio: 919-829-8938
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