Redick, Devils Too Much For Pack

<B>WASHINGTON, DC --</B> J.J. Redick scores 35 points as No. 3 seed Duke tops No. 7 seed NC State 76-69.

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    NC State tried everything against Redick but nothing seemed to slow down the Blue Devil shooting guard. Whether it was rotating Engin Atsur, Julius Hodge, Gavin Grant, and Cameron Bennerman on him to using a 1-3-1 zone, it didn't matter because Redick was unstoppable. The junior finished the night with 35 points 11-of-16 shooting from the field while also knocking down 7-of-12 3-pointers from beyond the arc.

    "We were working really hard," Wolfpack head coach Herb Sendek said when asked about their plan to guard Redick. "None of those shots came with us having our legs crossed and our arms behind our head. We were giving great effort and to his credit he always gives great effort as well. He's always moving and they set a lot of screens for him. He needs almost no time or space to get a shot off.

    "The one thing that can be a little deceiving when talking about him is how big he is. He's a big guard and he's able to get his shot off with little time or space. He has a lightning quick release and that is really aided by his size."

    The Wolfpack, playing its third game in three nights, played valiantly against the No.3 seeded Blue Devils. With incredible precision on the offensive end in the first half, NC State led 38-34 at the break after shooting 53% from the field.

    "NC State really ran their offense great in the first half," Redick said. "We didn't have best intensity on defense."

    The execution continued in the second half for NC State. Atsur drilled a 3-pointer from the corner after a nifty behind-the-back pass from Ilian Evtimov, and the Wolfpack led by eight with 18 minutes left in the game.

    Redick, who had scored 12 points in the first half, simply took over when Duke needed him to the most. Following a Duke timeout, the junior hit two pull-up jumpers to cut the lead to four points. As the minutes went by, Duke was able to close the Wolfpack lead before eventually taking the lead on a Redick 3-pointer.

    The turning point in the game had to be Duke's ability to dominate the glass in the second half. After being outrebounded 20-10 in the first half, the Blue Devils had a +11 advantage in the final twenty minutes, including a +10 advantage on the offensive end.

    "I don't think it had anything to do with running out of gas, our guys have tremendous fortitude," Sendek said. "I know they were giving everything they had. DeMarcus Nelson just did a great job. He came down with six of those. To our mens' credit we had 14 offensive rebounds. It just seemed like when Duke got a second shot they made us pay dearly with a couple of big threes."

    On three different occasions, the Blue Devils had three 3-point attempts on one offensive possession ending with Redick and Daniel Ewing (2) draining the final attempt. After seemingly grabbing every rebound and loose ball early on, the Wolfpack looked weary and simply fatigued as the game wore on.

    NC State continued to play hard and leading the way throughout the contest was emerging freshman Andrew Brackman. Brackman, a 6-10 post player from Cincinnati, Ohio, erupted for 16 points in the second half of NC State's ACC quarterfinal win over Wake Forest, and he played extremely well again against Duke. He finished the night with 13 points, leading NC State in scoring.

    Joining Brackman in double figures was Ilian Evtimov, Julius Hodge, and Engin Atsur. Evtimov finished with 11 points, eight rebounds, and four assists while Hodge added 11 points, seven rebounds, and six assists. Atsur, who chased Redick all night, chipped in 12 points. Cameron Bennerman and Gavin Grant both played well, scoring nine and seven points respectively with Grant also adding seven boards.

    Shelden Williams and Daniel Ewing joined Redick in double figures for the Blue Devils, as they finished with 15 and 14 points respectively.

    NC State (19-13) heads home after playing three very good games in the ACC Tournament and is now playing its best ball of the season. Despite playing much of the tournament without Jordan Collins and Tony Bethel, the Wolfpack managed to win two tough games and push the Blue Devils to the wire.

    "I certainly continue to be very proud of our men," Sendek said. "Even in defeat today I thought their effort was tremendous, playing our third game in three days. I just couldn't be prouder of a group of guys than I am of our team right now. Certainly you have to give Duke credit for an outstanding game.

    "These guys have given their heart, they've given everything they've had and that's what this whole thing is about. They've had a great home stretch to the regular season and I'm just proud to be coaching them."

    With most media outlets stating NC State's close to a lock at earning an at-large NCAA Tournament bid, the Wolfpack will head back to Raleigh and watch the Selection Show on Sunday night to determine if and where they will play in the Big Dance.

    "I think our play will speak for itself," Sendek said. "We've had a very strong finish and an excellent season. We feel very good about where we stand going into tomorrow."

    The Wolfpack missed Tony Bethel and Collins against the Blue Devils, as the lack of depth appeared to catch up with them. Will they be available for postseason play?

    "Jordan will definitely be back," said Sendek. "We are very optimistic about his recovery. We tried him a couple minutes last night and we think he is right around the corner. Tony is day-to-day. We'll see what a couple days of rest do for him and hopefully we'll go into the NCAA Tournament in better health than we did coming into the ACC Tournament."

    Duke (24-5) faces No. 4 seed Georgia Tech (19-10) in the ACC championship game Sunday at 1 PM. The Yellow Jackets upset No. 1 seed North Carolina in the other ACC semifinal contest.


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