But the lead wouldn't last, as the Blue Devils came out of the locker room with an intensity the Wolfpack couldn't match. The Devils outscored the Pack by a 26-point margin in the half, going on to win by a 92-72 score on Thursday night.
"We sort of broke down in some areas both physically and mentally," Lowe said.
Duke (18-1, 6-0 ACC) hit 65 percent of its shots in the second half, went 7-of-11 from behind the 3-point line and dominated the boards – out-rebounding the Pack (13-7, 2-4) by 19-7 margin. The final result was a game that went from a possible upset to a typical Cameron blowout in less than 10 minutes.
"They stayed tough, they knew they had to come out and make a run the first five minutes of the second half," Lowe said. "I thought they were tougher – both mentally and physically they stayed with it. We relaxed a little."
Gavin Grant, the only Wolfpack player to ever play in Cameron before tonight, led all scorers with 26 points on 9-of-11 shooting. Freshman J.J. Hickson picked up yet another double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds while Brandon Costner also scored in double figures with 14 points.
"Grant was real good tonight, real good," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said.
Greg Paulus led the Blue Devils with 22 points and three other Duke players scored in double figures. Kyle Singler had 19 points, while Gerald Henderson and DeMarcus Nelson each scored 18.
We got to the point where we can play a team like this and get the lead, now we have to get to a point where we can maintain that," Lowe said.
The Pack grabbed control of the game in the first half despite deep foul trouble. Grant, who was a perfect 6-of-6 from the field in the half, scored 16 points but didn't play the final five minutes after picking up two fouls. With Hickson and Fells also on the bench, Costner picked up the slack by scoring 12 points thanks to a 9-of-11 performance from the free-throw line.
State also shot exceptionally well in the first half, hitting 15-of-26 shots (58 percent) on its way to scoring 46 points – by far its highest output in an opening half this season. But the defense was what helped the Pack build its lead, scoring 13 points off Blue Devil turnovers and taking a nine-point lead into the locker room. "We didn't play a very intelligent first half and they took advantage of it," Krzyzewski said. As good as the Pack was in the first half, they were just as bad in the second. The defense fell apart, allowing Duke to drain three 3-point shots in its first four possessions to quickly bring the raucous Cameron Crazies back to life. On the rare occasions that Duke missed, the Pack was unable to grab the rebound – State had just three defensive rebounds in the final 20 minutes.
"This is a tough environment – we talked about keeping your composure but unless you've been in that situation before you don't know what its like," Lowe said.