Late Rally Leads Devils Past Pack, 73-56

DURHAM -- NC State matched No. 2 Duke blow-for-blow for 32 minutes, but a 17-3 run to end the game lifted the Blue Devils over the Wolfpack 73-56 on Tuesday night at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

For 32 minutes, NC State looked like it could pull off the impossible. The Wolfpack hustled and hearted its way to a four-point halftime lead and withstood a bevy of 3-pointers early in the second half to find itself tailing No. Duke by just a point on the road with eight minutes left.

But the Pack couldn't hold things together over the final minutes, reverting back to the turnover-prone ways that has doomed them in previous games. The Blue Devils combined those turnovers with a suddenly hot shooting touch to end the game with a 17-3 run, defeating the Pack by a deceptively large 73-56 score on Tuesday night at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

"I thought we played about 33 minutes of solid basketball," head coach Sidney Lowe said. "The second half they just kept coming at us and coming at us but we turned the ball over a few too many times."

The visiting team was done in by the Devils' scorching hot shooting in the second half. After going 9-for-31 in the first half, the Devils hit on 77 percent (20-for-26) of its shots in the second half and a seemingly impossible 6-for-7 from behind the arc in that time. The Pack managed to battle with them for the first 12 minutes of the half by matching them blow for blow but it only took a few bad offensive possessions for the team to turn a one-point deficit into a nine-point hole with just three minutes left.

"Our defense wasn't as aggressive or solid as it had been in the first half," Lowe said.

Brandon Costner and Ben McCauley led the way for the Pack, with each scoring 15 points and pulling down five rebounds. Tracey Smith scored eight points off the bench while Johnny Thomas came off the bench to lead the team with six rebounds. Gerald Henderson led all scorers with 21 points and almost single-handedly kept Duke afloat early in the second half, scoring 13 of the team's first 21 points.

"He did exactly what a player of his caliber is supposed to do," Lowe said. "He can change the game and he did it tonight."

The Pack looked on the verge of being blow away in the opening minutes, turning the ball over on its first three possessions and falling behind 10-1 thanks to a pressing Duke defense. But the Devils turned down the pressure and allowed the Pack to rally back as McCauley and Costner led the way offensively with McCauley dominating Brian Zoubek on the inside and Costner nailing a pair of 3-pointers from the top of the key.

After jumping out to a nine point lead over the Pack, the visitors controlled the half the rest of the way and finished with a 10-2 run that put the underdog visitors up four points. For the third straight game against Duke, the Pack found itself with a lead going into the halftime locker room, 26-22.

The Devils didn't help themselves on offense, shooting just 29 percent in the first 20 minutes while the Pack hit on 44 percent of its field goals. The Pack also cut down on its turnovers after a string of giveaways to start the half. The team finished the half with nine turnovers but made up for some of it by out-rebounding the Devils 21-16 during that span.

But this time the Pack hung around for most of the second half. The Pack had a chance to tie the score at 54 each after the eight minute timeout, but Tracy Smith missed a free throw and Farnold Degand couldn't draw a foul call on a drive. The Devils took advantage of the brief miscue, scoring on the other end then forcing a turnover and scoring again. A Courtney Fells running couldn't hold back the tide though, and Duke finished the game from that point by going on a 15-1 run.

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