Engin Atsur wasn't ready to go home.
The senior point guard, who went into the locker room at halftime with no points, scored 21 points in the second half and overtime to keep the NC State alive in the ACC Tournament. The Wolfpack's floor leader guided the Pack to a 85-80 overtime win over No. 21 Duke on Thursday night in Tampa.
"At this point we have nothing to lose," Atsur said. "We just want to finish our season strong."
The No. 10 seeded Pack (16-14) upset the No. 7 seeded Blue Devils (22-10), a team that had won seven of the last eight ACC Tournaments. They had also knocked the Wolfpack out of four of the last six tournaments. Duke defeated the Pack in their regular season meeting, but that team was playing without Atsur, who was sidelined with a hamstring injury.
"[Having him on the court] gives you great confidence, great calmness which I thought we did a great job with tonight," Sidney Lowe said. "Having him in there gives us a tremendous advantage."
Atsur got plenty of help on Thursday from freshman Brandon Costner. The All-ACC forward picked the perfect night to record a career high, scoring 30 points and grabbing seven rebounds. Costner did all of his work inside the arc, scoring on a variety of drives and post moves.
"They switched a lot of pick and rolls and it just happened that the man switching off to me was smaller," Costner said. "I just got the most shots today and was able to take advantage of the mismatches."
The Pack shot lights-out for much of the game, hitting 62 percent. They also forced 16 turnovers and out-rebounded the Blue Devils, who were missing freshman Gerald Henderson because of a one-game suspension. Henderson averages 6.8 points per game but had to watch from the stands because of a flagrant foul he delivered to Carolina's Tyler Hansbrough in Duke's regular-season finale.
Lowe's team moves on to the second round, where it will play No. 2 seed Virginia tomorrow night at 7 pm. The Cavaliers won both match-ups against the Pack during the regular season.
"We just want to take this one at a time," Lowe said. "We got this one and now we have to get ready for tomorrow."
The Wolfpack came out of the gate quickly, hitting on seven of their first nine shots. Duke couldn't stop Costner, who scored 16 points in the half, and State forced Duke into 11 first-half turnovers as the Pack took an early lead before Duke rallied back.
The Blue Devils pulled away from the Pack in the last six minutes of the half thanks to its outside shooting. The Pack couldn't stop Duke's perimeter game, allowing Duke to shoot 58 percent from behind the 3-point line while going 0-for-4 on its own side of the court. The Devils led by as many as nine before State cut the lead to 34-29 at the break.
"The 3s that they got at that time were really break down on our part," Lowe said. "We just lost touch – we lost our guy."
The Pack rallied back behind Atsur, who hit scored eight of the team's first twelve points to start the second half. The two teams traded baskets for most of the second half, with State taking a late lead only to have the Blue Devils get back-to-back three-point plays to tie the game.
State had plenty of chances to win on its final possession. Costner had an open jumper at the free-throw line that wouldn't go, but McCauley kept the ball alive and Atsur had a long open 3-pointer that clanked off the rim. After a timeout, Fells had a running 3-pointer in the corner that missed but Atsur rose up for one last tip-in try that went long to send the game to overtime.
Costner hit on a 3-point play to open the overtime period, then hit a pair of free throws as the Pack lead the entire period. Appropriately, Costner hit two more free throws with 11 seconds left to seal the win the for the Pack.