Coach Mike Krzyzewski questioned Duke's physical toughness after a surprising loss at North Carolina State in January.
The Blue Devils' mental toughness could be the difference in the rematch.
With several key players dealing with injuries, No. 2 Duke looks to extend its winning streak and begin a march to its first ACC tournament title in four years Thursday night against Anthony "Cat" Barber and the Wolfpack.
N.C. State (20-12) won for only the sixth time in 35 meetings Jan. 11 when it built a 19-point lead before knocking the Blue Devils (28-3, 15-3) from the ranks of the unbeaten in an 87-75 home win.
The Wolfpack shot 55.0 percent and went 10 for 16 from 3-point range while limiting one of the nation's highest-scoring clubs to a season-low 36.9 field-goal percentage and 7 of 27 from beyond the arc.
"Were we as tough as we needed to be? No," Krzyzewski said afterward. "Does that mean we're soft? No. We're a good team. We need to learn to play at that level. You've got to be in these things to learn it."
Krzyzewski's club went 3-3 during that stretch, but has won 11 in a row since falling at then-No. 8 Notre Dame on Jan. 28.
The second-seeded Blue Devils extended their longest conference winning streak since stringing together 14 ACC wins from Dec. 4, 2005-Feb. 22, 2006, with Saturday's 84-77 victory at No. 19 North Carolina.
Tyus Jones had 17 of his season-high 24 points in the second half, while Quinn Cook added 20. Cook has scored 21.0 per game while shooting 42.6 percent from 3-point range in his last eight, though he's one of five players dealing with ankle injuries.
ACC Player of the Year Jahlil Okafor, Grayson Allen, Amile Jefferson and Justise Winslow are also hobbling. Okafor had 23 points and 12 boards versus N.C. State in January, but the freshman has totaled 20 and eight in his last two games.
"We really have five guys of the eight that have had something wrong with their ankles in the last week and a half," Krzyzewski said. "I think all of them will play, but what does that do to their explosiveness? You have to go on the court forgetting about any soreness in the injury and hopefully, we're strong enough mentally to do that."
The Blue Devils haven't won the ACC tournament since a three-year title run from 2009-11. They'll get a quarterfinal rematch with seventh-seeded N.C. State, which has won six of seven following Wednesday's 81-70 victory over Pittsburgh.
Barber had a career-high 34 points in the highest scoring effort by an N.C. State player in the tourney since David Thompson had 38 in 1975. Barber has averaged 17.6 points while hitting 19 of 36 from 3-point range in his last 10 games.
"I just came out with a high sense of urgency and confidence that I could put the team on my back and that's what I did," said Barber, who had four points on three shots in the first matchup with Duke.
Trevor Lacey scored 21 and Ralston Turner added 16 in the January win, but Turner will try to bounce back after struggling with four points on 2-of-9 shooting against the Panthers.
The Wolfpack have won three of eight games versus ranked opponents this season, though they won at No. 9 Louisville 74-65 and at No. 15 North Carolina 58-46 in their last two.
Previewing Duke v. North Carolina State
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