Mike Krzyzewski has never been much for revenge theories.
The way this Duke team has paid back two of its ACC losses this season, the Blue Devils’ legendary coach might have to reconsider.
Duke jumped all over N.C. State in the first half of Thursday’s quarterfinal matchup in the ACC tournament and never looked back in a 77-53 win.
Duke led 49-22 at the half, and it could have scored five points in the second half and still won the game.
The Blue Devils (29-3) have won 12 consecutive games and are peaking at the right time of the season.
“They were on top of their game,” N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried said. “That first half, they were sensational.”
N.C. State (20-13) had come into the game on a roll, winning six of the previous seven games, and beating Duke 87-75 on Jan. 11 in Raleigh.
That might have been the worst thing the Wolfpack could do. Notre Dame also beat Duke in January. Duke swarmed Notre Dame the second time it saw the Fighting Irish, too.
In the postgame press conference, Krzyzewski briefly lamented the death of the ACC round robin, when every school played twice every season. But Krzyzewski said Thursday’s performance wasn’t about looking back but focusing on the current task at hand.
“We needed to get off to a good start in this tournament,” Krzyzewski said. “This tournament means a lot to us.”
Duke hasn’t won the ACC title since 2011, a certifiable drought in Krzyzewski’s record career.
A mess on defense in the first game against the Wolfpack in Raleigh, the Blue Devils started Thursday’s game with a three-quarter court trap, to get the ball out of the hands of N.C. State’s guards.
Once the Wolfpack did manage to crossed halfcourt, the Blue Devils went into a modified matchup zone. Whatever it was, it confused N.C. State.
“They just made sure me and Cat didn’t beat them,” N.C. State guard Trevor Lacey said. “At one point it looked like a 1-3-1, and then a 2-3, and then it was – I don’t know. Man to man? I don’t know.”
N.C. State, which tore Pittsburgh apart on Wednesday with strong guard play, could not get any traction against Duke’s switching schemes.
Barber who had 34 points in the win over Pitt, started 0 of 7 in the first half on Thursday and finished without scoring.
Barber left the game at 13:26 in the second half after he collided with Duke’s Amile Jefferson.
Barber had been guarding Tyus Jones full court when he ran into Jefferson’s screen at the 3-point line across from N.C. State’s bench.
Gottfried didn’t have an update on Barber’s condition. He sounded optimistic that Barber would be ready for the NCAA tournament next week.
Lacey had 21 points against Pitt, and 21 in the Wolfpack’s win over Duke in Raleigh, missed the rim entirely on his first two shots and had only two points in the first half. Lacey finished with four points and went 2 of 8 from the floor.
Krzyzewski said he thought N.C. State might have been worn down after its 81-70 win over Pitt on Wednesday.
“They had a tough game last night and they played great,” Krzyzewski said. “It’s tough to do it two nights in a row.”
Thursday’s first half also completes a trilogy of first-half massacres. Duke led Notre Dame 50-24 at the half on Feb. 7. The Blue Devils jumped on Wake Forest 52-15 on March 4. Both of those games were in Durham. Duke took its show to Greensboro on Thursday.
The Blue Devils were so dominant in the first half, they barely needed freshman forward Jahlil Okafor, the ACC player of the year, who finished with 10 points.
Reserves Marshall Plumlee (career-high 12 points) and Grayson Allen (11) provided an extra lift off the bench.
Plumlee, who had seven total points in the previous six games, had eight points – on four dunks – in the first half. All six of his field goals were dunks.
His flush, off an alley-oop on an inbounds play at 9:47 gave Duke a 28-11 lead and all but crushed N.C. State’s spirit.
The second half was so lopsided, N.C. State didn’t surpass Duke’s halftime total (49 points) until there was 4:10 left in the game.
“It was just one of those days where they had everything going,” Gottfried said. “You have to give Duke credit, they’re the story today. They were sensational.”