The 'Pack was out of it after the first half, trailing the Blue Devils 53-24 at the intermission. Afterward, Coach Sidney Lowe was relegated to praising his team's effort over the final 20 minutes.
"I was very, very encouraged with our team in the second half," Lowe said after the 'Pack outscored the Blue Devils 28-23 in the period. "I was encouraged with our young guys.
"We're a young team, and I was encouraged that they didn't stop."
That might be the definition of grabbing at straws.
The 'Pack fell to 2-7 in the ACC with the loss, ahead of only one-win Wake Forest.
But there are some somewhat mitigating circumstances.
The 'Pack had five road games in its first nine ACC outings, a tough way for a team that has started as many as three freshmen at times to begin a conference run.
But the 'Pack will get four of its final seven games at home, where it is 2-2 in league play and 9-3 overall. It also will have a week between games to get ready for its next outing, a trip to Wake Forest on Feb. 13.
-- N.C. State has been missing a key player in each of the last three games through Feb. 5. The Wolfpack was without freshman F C.J. Leslie (suspended) at Duke. Freshman G Ryan Harrow missed the previous two outings with an illness, but he did return to play 15 minutes at Duke, going scoreless.
-- Including the 53-24 halftime deficit Feb. 5 at Duke, N.C. State has trailed by an average score of 42-23 at halftime of its last three games.
-- With the loss to No. 5 Duke, the Wolfpack fell to 9-23 against ranked teams under coach Sidney Lowe. The 'Pack was 3-2 in such meetings last season but is 0-4 this season through Feb. 5 with two of the losses to the Blue Devils.
BY THE NUMBERS: 3 -- The number of N.C. State players who had played a game at Duke's Cameron Indoor Stadium before the loss to the Blue Devils (seniors Javier Gonzalez and Tracy Smith and junior C.J. Williams).
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I'm very disappointed with the way we started this game and the way we've started the last four games. We've gotten ourselves in too much trouble early in those games." -- Coach Sidney Lowe, after the loss at Duke, the sixth in seven games for the Wolfpack.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
THIS WEEK'S GAME:
--at Wake Forest, Feb. 13
KEY MATCHUPS: The Wolfpack opened conference play by coasting past the Demon Deacons, leading all the way in a 90-69 romp. The Deacons did have three players in double figures (G Gary Clark 13, G C.J. Harris 12, and F Ari Stewart 13), but they had major problems on the boards. The 'Pack won the rebounding 47-22.
FUTURES MARKET: Senior F Tracy Smith continues to contend with a sore knee. He played only 20 minutes at Duke, scoring just four points, far below his averages of 14.7 coming into the game. He did manage six rebounds. He is going to have to be healthy if the Wolfpack is to make a late run.
-- Sophomore F Richard Howell had his finest shooting game of the season, going 9-for-11 from the field for a career-high 18 points Feb. 5 against Duke. He was only 1-for-13 in the previous three games combined after scoring 17 points on 8 of 11 shooting in the win over Miami.
-- Sophomore C DeShawn Painter had 10 points off the bench against the Blue Devils, the first time he has scored in double figures against an ACC opponent in his career.
-- Freshman G Lorenzo Brown scored 15 points at Duke, his third double-digit effort in the last five games.