Richard Howell scores inside to cut the lead to five, the Blue Devils answer with back-to-back tip-in baskets. Scott Wood hits a 3-pointer to cut the lead back to eight with under six minutes left, Kyle Singler answer with a 3 of his own.
The Wolfpack fought back after a sluggish first half but could never get over the hump, falling at home on Wednesday night at the RBC Center 92-78 to the Blue Devils. The Pack has now lost three straight and fallen into a 1-3 hole to start conference play.
"We need to get something going here, but urgency is every single game," head coach Sidney Lowe said. "We need to get a win, we need to get something going. We look at our line-ups and we need to put the guys out on the court that are going to be productive."
"We need a run – we need a nice run."
The Pack (11-7, 1-3 ACC) trailed by 14 points at the half but stormed back to start the second half, cutting the lead to as few as five points. But the always poised Blue Devils withstood the Pack rally and held on despite the Pack's 55 percent shooting effort over the final 20 minutes.
"We need to play like we do in the second half in the first and second half," Ryan Harrow said.
For the game the Pack shot just 37 percent, including 5-of-11 from behind the arc and made 23-of-30 free throws. The Blue Devils hit 50 percent of its shots and made 7-of-23 from 3-point land. The Devils also grabbed 18 offensive rebounds on 33 misses to help keep the Pack from maintaining any runs.
"You take things from a win, you take things from a loss," Lowe said. "What we take from this is the effort we put together to play and come back on a team that's nationally ranked, a very good team with two pros on their team, to get back in it."
Five Pack players scored in double figures on the night, led by Smith's 19 points and nine rebounds. Wood and Harrow both added 15. CJ Leslie scored 13 points and grabbed eight rebounds while Howell scored 10 points and had seven boards.
"It's just the worst feeling ever to lose a game," Lowe said. "And we need to feel that, we want them to feel that, so you never feel that pain again."
The Duke offense came out firing at the Pack, opening up a quick double-digit lead by attacking the basket and going right at the interior of the Pack defense. The Devils shot 50 percent in the half and scored 12 points in the paint to make up for a 3-of-12 performance from beyond the arc.
In addition to attacking the paint on offense, the Devils attacked the Pack's interior scorers on defense as well. Duke finished the half with seven blocked shots, forced the Pack to shoot a paltry 22 percent from the floor and grabbed 18 defensive rebounds. The Pack stayed alive on the line (11-of-15) and with second-chance scoring, where they scored 10 points.
The Pack's shooting woes and defensive problem kept the Devils ahead by double-digits for most of the half, and the Pack trailed 42-28 going into halftime.
Lowe emerged from the halftime locker room with a new line-up, one that featured Wood at shooting guard and Howell, Leslie and Smith in the game at once. The line-up provided a spark, as the Pack rallied to pull with single digits of the Devils.
"I was pleased with that line-up," Lowe said. "Obviously it gave us good energy and got us back in the ballgame."
But the Duke offense had an answer for every Pack run. When Wood hit a 3-point with 5:25 left in the game to pull the Pack back within eight points, Singler took all of 11 seconds to answer with a 3 of his own. The Pack never got as close again, as the Devils slowed down the pace in the final minutes and held on for the win.
"This team has to do a little better job defensively and get stops," Lowe said.