Observations From the Game: Duke

DURHAM, N.C. -- NC State's offense remains hot, but the Wolfpack couldn't stop Duke behind the 3-point line in the first half or keep them off the free throw line in the second half.

Offensive Efficiency
It probably doesn't happen a lot, if much at all.

Teams rarely go into Cameron Indoor Stadium and light up the scoreboard against the Blue Devils. Facing a pressure defense in a hostile environment, NC State's offensive efficiency, particularly in the second half, was superb.

The Wolfpack scored 85 points on Duke, with only 11 coming from the free throw line and 12 from behind the 3-point arc. State also scored just 10 fastbreak points... which means they generated 52 points from halfcourt scoring inside the 3-point line. That's pretty darn good.

NC State's spacing on offense was outstanding and they set very good screens all night to free up shooters and post players for clean catches. The Wolfpack shot a blistering 53% from the field, and 65.5% in the second half.

When you add in they had just seven turnovers, it was a great night for the Pack offense on the road.

"I thought early we had some shots right around the rim but just couldn't make them," said Mark Gottfried. "I thought after that we just stayed with it. We kept getting the ball around the rim, we executed our offense, and we got good shots."

Lewis Continues To Impress
Lorenzo Brown's injury could end up being a blessing in disguise for the Wolfpack because they have found out a lot about backup point guard Tyler Lewis. The true freshman can play.

Lewis, who scored 16 points and dished out five assists with just one turnover in 36 minutes on Saturday against Miami, was even better versus Duke. Making his first career start in the league's toughest road environment, Lewis played 39 minutes. He hit 4-of-8 shots, all five free throws, and finished with 13 points, six assists, two rebounds, and zero turnovers.

Lewis is averaging 14.5 points, 5.5 assists, 2 rebounds, and 37.5 minutes per game in his last two contests. Oh, and he also has just one turnover with the games coming against Miami and Duke, the league's top two teams. Both tried to harass him on the perimeter, but Lewis didn't flinched.

"He's not afraid," Gottfried said of Lewis. "Tyler is a young [guy] that kind of in his mind, had to beat the odds... his size, his frame, and he has kind of that mentality right now. He played against good pressure defense, all night long, and gets 13 points and six assists without a turnover.

"We're learning, and the tough thing for us is we're not winning, but we're learning that he can help us... a lot. He's doing well."

The way he has stepped up will only help NC State moving forward. NC State's halfcourt offense has been extremely efficient with him running the show (had just seven turnovers last night), and his play could allow the Wolfpack to play Lorenzo Brown more off the ball, which would give them two playmakers on the floor at the same time.

Either way, Lewis is silencing critics who questioned his game earlier in the year when he was playing very little, and he is proving that he can not only play, but a factor, on this level.

Paint Dominance
Why was NC State so good offensively? They dominated the paint. NC State scored 50 points in the paint versus Duke... the Blue Devils totaled just 30.

While Duke was hitting three-pointers from the perimeter, NC State was throwing the ball into the paint and mid-post and attacking the basket.

Big men Richard Howell and C.J. Leslie had their moments where they would score on the low block or attack from the mid-post, and Howell hit several short, pull-up jumpers over Mason Plumlee.

The only problem with State's interior offense was the inability to finish shots the first ten minutes of the game. Leslie, Howell, and T.J. Warren all missed layups and putbacks at the rim that would have kept the game a little closer while Duke was unconscious from deep.

First-Half Defense
State left Duke open a few times, but the Blue Devils hit shots, a lot of shots.

Seth Curry, Quinn Cook, and Rasheed Sulaimon hit 10-of-16 3-pointers in the second half, and they came in a variety of ways. In transition... off penetration and kick-outs... off dribble-handoffs... curling off screens... isolation pull-up 3s.... step-back 3s... the trio was on fire. Overall, they combined to go 13-of-22 from the field in the first 20 minutes.

"They shot the ball well [in the first half]," said Gottfried. "We had a hard time keeping them from scoring. They shot the ball well from three.

"A number of those we had our hands up, we chased them off screens, and they were knocking them down."

NC State was able to neutralize the trio in the second half, holding them to just 2-of-9 shooting, but by then the damage had been done.

Defending Plumlee
Mason Plumlee was the best player on the floor Thursday night and played like the All-American he had been tabbed earlier this season.

The 6'll senior played all 40 minutes, scoring 30 points on 9-of-11 shooting from the field and 12-of-16 from the free throw line. He also grabbed nine rebounds and chipped in two blocks.

NC State chose to not double-team Plumlee, and he made them pay. He began the game by scoring easy buckets either in transition or halfcourt off catch situations, and then late in the game he began to take over by catching the ball on the block and either finishing at the rim or drawing a foul on a Wolfpack defender to head back to the free throw line.

The Wolfpack chose to defend him with just one man, and he had a big-time night.

NC State Player of the Game
Richard Howell was really, really good.

He fouled out with 3:41 left in the game, but his work offensively made it interesting late in the second half when he scored 15 points on 7-of-10 shooting.

Howell finished with a team-high 23 points and nine rebounds, while hitting 11-of-18 field goals and 1-of-2 free throws. He knocked down mid-range jumpers all night, and after missing a couple of close-in shots early, he was efficient at the rim as well.

"I thought Richard was really good," said Gottfried. "Plumlee played off him a little bit and he made a lot of jumpshots... I thought he's really played well."

Stat of the Game
Duke hit 32-of-41 free throws. State hit 11-of-19 free throws.
Duke attempted 24 3-pointers last night and State took just nine. The Wolfpack was +20 in the paint versus the Blue Devils. However, State's aggressiveness in attacking the rim didn't carry over to the free throw line.

The Wolfpack attempted 19 free throws as a team. Mason Plumlee shot 16 himself. Seth Curry took 12. Duke was +22 in free throw attempts and +21 in free throws made.

In the final 20 minutes, State held the Blue Devils to just 18 points from the field on 42.9% shooting. However, the Blue Devils held on because they were able to get to the line and knock down free throws. They hit 22-of-28 in the second half.

Both C.J. Leslie and Richard Howell ended up fouling out for the Wolfpack.

"It was hard [to massage the foul situation], but they went right at us, and I thought we tried to go right at them inside," Gottfried said. "It's difficult, but until the last few minutes of the game I don't think it was really an issue for us."

Tyler Lewis on what Mark Gottfried told his team at halftime:
"Coach came in and said don't ever give up, don't quit. Just play your heart out. Don't be a quitter."

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