Jan. 21, 2010
RALEIGH, N.C. – What better way for NC State junior Tracy Smith to celebrate his 22nd birthday than an 88-74 victory over No. 7 Duke?
Smith, who played high school basketball in Durham, scored 23 points and had four rebounds for the hot-shooting Wolfpack, who finished the game well over 50 percent from the field. It was the second win over an ranked opponent in the last eight days, including a win at No. 25 Florida State last week.
Duke, meanwhile, never found its rhythm in the contest, other than a desperation 3-point shot at the end of the first half by Nolan Smith that turned out to be the only real glimmer of hope all night long for the visitors.
Senior Dennis Horner scored 20 points before fouling out of the game with two minutes to play, but by then the Wolfpack had long established a double-digit advantage.
Senior Farnold Degand put an exclamation point on the Wolfpack’s first regular-season victory over the Blue Devils since 2004 by going coast-to-coast for a layup with 1:05 remaining in the game.
Smith had an amazing offensive night, scoring 14 points in the first half alone. The Wolfpack (13-6 overall, 2-3 ACC) made 16 of 25 shots – a 64.0 shooting percentage – to open the game and build as much as a 10-point lead.
The Blue Devils (15-3, 3-2) shot a miserable 37.5 percent from the field in the opening half, but owned a 20-9 rebounding advantage. The Wolfpack could have had more than its 41-38 lead at intermission, but Duke’s Nolan Smith grabbed a long rebound and, before hit feet hit the ground again, but up a 3-pointer that went through the basket as the buzzer went off.
The Pack didn’t seem affected by that to start the second half, making six of their eight shots, mostly on Smith layups. When he made a short jumper in the lane with 15:56, the Pack’s lead was back to double-figures, 56-46.
Head coach Sidney Lowe surprised the Blue Devils with a full-court press early in the game, which created several turnovers and easy baskets.
Freshman shooting sensation Scott Wood was held without a shot in the first half, which was immediately rectified on the first possession of the second. Wood was fouled while attempting a 3-pointer from the top of the key and made all three free throws to give the Pack a six-point cushion.
The points kept coming from all directions, though, with the Wolfpack’s opening 11-3 run. When Wood hit a 3-pointer on the wing, State’s lead was 63-49.
Duke had no answer for Smith inside, and he matched his new age on a pair of free throws with five minutes to play.
The Wolfpack hadn’t beaten the Blue Devils since Lowe’s first season, when it took an overtime decision in the opening round of the 2007 ACC Tournament in Tampa, which kicked off the team’s run to the title game.
It was the Pack’s first regular-season win over the Blue Devils since Feb. 15, 2004, when the Julius Hodge-led squad scored a 78-74 victory over the top-ranked Devils.
The Pack hits the road to face Maryland on Saturday at 6 p.m. on ESPN2. It’s next home game is Tuesday against North Carolina, which is slated for a 9 p.m. start.