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March 8, 2007
Blue Devils bounced out
The pattern had been set in the first session of the ACC Tournament Thursday with lower seeded teams winning each of the first two games.
Duke couldn't reverse the trend in game three as the Blue Devils lost an eight point second half lead and were eliminated by 10th seed NC State 85-80 in overtime at the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa.
The Blue Devils were victimized by an NC State three headed monster of Brandon Costner, Engin Atsur, and Ben McCauley.
The three torched Duke for 66 combined points, led by Costner's career high 30.
The Wolfpack sliced through Duke's man to man defense and finished the game with a sizzling 60.8 percent shooting percentage, and after scoring just 29 first half points, exploded for 56 in the second half and overtime.
Playing without suspended freshman Gerald Henderson, Duke was shorthanded, but it wasn't his missing offense that doomed the Blue Devils.
Duke had five players score between 14 and 18 points, but could not get consecutive stops down the stretch to generate any kind of separation on the scoreboard.
"We have not played well defensively for two weeks," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski lamented after the game. "We have to play defense. We've given up almost 90 points a game the last three games, and we're just not going to win ballgames unless we play defense. We're not playing together on the defensive end of the court, and they took advantage of that."
Atsur's calming hand at point guard was the key difference in the NC State team that opposed Duke Thursday and the version the Blue Devils blew out on January 20th in Raleigh.
Atsur was absent from that game with a hamstring injury, but he was a major presence in Tampa.
Atsur scored 21 points and hit 4-7 from behind the three point line, in addition to nearly flawlessly running the high pick-and-roll that helped result in many more scoring opportunities for the Wolfpack.
"We didn't take a charge tonight, or maybe one, but you can't have all of those drives to the basket without somebody coming over and taking a charge," Krzyzewski said..."Right now, we're not providing very many, if any obstacles to an opponent on the defensive end of the court."
The game took a major turn in the second half from a low scoring, defensive oriented game to a high scoring game of halfcourt execution.
Duke led by as many as nine late in the first half, but Costner scored four straight points to end the half and cut the margin to 34-29 going to the locker room.
After a Jon Scheyer three pointer opened second half scoring and extended Duke's lead to 37-29, the Blue Devils began to falter defensively.
Atsur hit a pair of open threes in less than a minute to cut the lead to one and pushed the Wolfpack ahead with another trey at the 13:28 mark.
Late game execution gave the Blue Devils a chance to win despite falling behind 66-62 with 3:04 to play. DeMarcus Nelson registered a driving basket and turned it into a three point play at the foul line, and Martynas Pocius did the same on Duke's next possession to put the Devils up 68-67.
Pocius scored 14 points in 17 minutes and hit all five of his field goal attempts to give Duke a big lift in place of Henderson.
But another three pointer by Atsur turned the tables back into NC State's favor. Nelson tied the game on a strong drive and Duke escaped a loss in regulation when the Wolfpack missed four shots at the basket on the final possession.
With both teams fighting foul trouble, overtime was on the brink of becoming a battle of attrition, but Duke didn't record a single defensive stop in the extra session.
Greg Paulus paced the Blue Devils with 18 points on another productive offensive night, as he and Scheyer combined for seven 3-point baskets and 32 points.
Josh McRoberts and Nelson each finished with 17.
Duke will not play the weekend at the ACC Tournament for the first time since 1997, when NC State defeated Duke 66-60 in the quarterfinals.