Abbreviated Game Preview by @RandyDunson – Duke Blue Devils vs. NC State Wolfpack

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Abbreviated Game Preview [Full versions will resume next game.]

#18/18 Duke Blue Devils [15-4, 3-3] vs. #NR/NR NC State Wolf pack [13-7, 2-5]

January 23, 2017 • 7:00 PM ET • Cameron Indoor Stadium

Media: ESPN, Watch ESPN Link, Blue Devil IMG Sports Network

By Randy Dunson [Note: Please direct comments, suggestions, etc. to @RandyDunson]

Summary

Duke has to make a quick turnaround, playing again in less than 48 hours, when they host North Carolina State on Monday night. The Wolfpack have lost four of their last five games, the latest being a close loss at home to Wake Forest. The Blue Devils were able to make a big comeback over Miami to halt a two-game skid. Duke has won seven of the last eight meetings against NC State.

NC State kept it close throughout, but they never were able to take control of the game against Wake Forest. The 93-88 loss moved the Wolfpack back to 2-5 in conference play. They were able to hit an efficient 51.6 percent from the field, had 21 assists on 33 field goals made, and had a slight 39-37 edge in the rebounding department. However, they also went a horrendous 6-for-26 from 3-point range. NC State made just 16-of-27 from the free throw line while the Demon Deacons lived there going 29-for-33.

Four of the Wolfpack’s starters made into double-figures, and they were led by junior forward Abdul-Malik Abu (10.9 PPG, 7.3 RPG) with 20 points and seven rebounds before fouling out late in the game. Leading average scorer Dennis Smith Jr. (19.1 PPG, 6.2 APG) had a unique double-double with 15 points and 13 assists, also coughing up just two turnovers to have an amazing passing ratio. Sophomore guard Torin Dorn (12 PPG, 5.6 RPG) chipped in with 13 points off the bench.

Duke made free throws and forced turnovers in its comeback win over Miami on Saturday night. The Devils were down by double digits at the half to Miami, but eventually pulled out a 70-58 comeback to move to .500 in the conference standings. The Blue Devils were able to lift their shooting percentage to 46.2, but the big story was going 17-of-23 from the foul line. They had more free throws made than Miami had attempts (15). In addition, the Hurricanes made just seven of them and turned it over 18 times to doom them from a big road win.

Two bench players sparked Duke in the comeback bid. Senior guard Matt Jones (8.2 PPG, 3 RPG) went 5-of-7 from the field, including making three 3-points, to finish with 13 points. Freshman guard Frank Jackson (11.1 PPG, 2.3 RPG) also hit double-digits off the bench with 10 points, the first time he was able to do that in the past three games. However, Grayson Allen (15.2 PPG, 4.6 RPG) was limited to seven points on a meager 2-for-9 shooting, also going 0-for-3 from downtown.

Endgame

In Duke’s last game, Matt Jones sought out and created a moment. A moment that Duke hopes will be a line in the sand where they choose not to be the team that accepts losing. Everyone will be watching to see if Duke has turned a corner from a struggling young team to a team that has heart and fire. N.C. State is a team with a budding star at the point guard position and a dire need for a signature win. Duke will need to build off the second half performance against Miami and try to keep momentum heading into a two game road stint against Wake Forest then at Notre Dame.

Duke has been a hard team to trust with sporadic play throughout the season, not to mention the Grayson Allen tripping dramas and Coach K recovering from surgery. The Blue Devils may just win this one if they can sustain their strong defense that reappeared in the second half of the Miami game. They hold opponents to 66.6 points per contest (61st nationally). Even though NC State has enough fire on offense to overcome a spotty defense, I think Duke continues its momentum from Saturday and pulls out the 78-68 win.