Loaded with McDonald's All-Americans and the top two players in the ACC, J.J. Redick and Shelden Williams, the Blue Devils are the nation's best team and most schools don't go into Cameron Indoor Stadium and beat Duke.
The Wolfpack came in unfazed and from the opening tip tried to establish center Cedric Simmons. The 6'9 sophomore scored the Wolfpack's first eight points, and dominated play in the opening half.
Behind Simmons, NC State managed to handle Duke's opening run and exchanged leads with the Blue Devils throughout the first half. After Ilian Evtimov scored on a driving layup with six seconds left, the Wolfpack led 34-33 at halftime.
Simmons tallied 13 points, five rebounds, and six blocks to pace the Wolfpack. Known as a perimeter-oriented team, NC State managed to outscore Duke 30-8 in the paint and shot 53.3% from the field in the first half.
Duke came out as you would expect in the second half, on fire. Redick started to get going from the perimeter and Williams hit buckets in the paint, but the key for the Blue Devils was the contributions from Sean Dockery and Lee Melchionni. The two seniors combined 22 points, 11 rebounds, and six assists, including seven 3-pointers.
They came up big late in the second half. With the score tied at 65, Dockery drilled a 3-pointer from the corner and was fouled by NC State's Tony Bethel on the play. The 6'2 senior would miss his free throw but grabbed the rebound after not being boxed out, and he would find Melchionni open at the top of the key for another trey, giving Duke a 71-65 advantage with 4:44 remaining.
The Wolfpack continued to go to Simmons in the paint, but the sophomore appeared tired after playing his most minutes of the season in a highly-intense contest. He missed two layups and a free throw and NC State's inability to score from the field forced the Wolfpack to foul Duke in the closing minutes.
NC State couldn't draw any closer than four points and the Blue Devils, particularly Redick, made free throws down the stretch to clinch the victory.
Playing in a hostile environment, Simmons was a beast for NC State. He tallied 28 points on 11-of-18 shooting, nine rebounds, and a game-high seven blocks. Gavin Grant added 13 points and seven rebounds and Cameron Bennerman chipped in 12.
Starters Tony Bethel, Ilian Evtimov, and Engin Atsur combined for just six points on 3-of-14 shooting from the field.
The Wolfpack shot an impressive 51.9% but knocked down just 2-of-11 3-pointers and went 10-of-16 from the free throw line.
Redick paced Duke with 28 points. The senior guard knocked down 7-of-15 shots and 10-of-10 from the free throw line. Williams totaled 21 points, nine rebounds, four blocks, and a game-high five steals. Melchionni and Dockery added 12 and 10 respectively.
No. 14 NC State returns to the court this Saturday as the Wolfpack faces Wake Forest at 4:00 in the RBC Center.