#24 NC State Faces No. 1 Duke
Feb. 13, 2002
By Tony Haynes
Raleigh, N.C.-Prior to hosting top ranked Duke on January 13th , NC State figured its time had come. There was no reason to think the young, improving Wolfpack couldn't hang with the powerful Blue Devils. After all, the Pack had already looked so impressive in posting earlier road wins over Syracuse and Virginia, a pair of teams that had been ranked in the top 10 at the time.
But then came a sudden and harsh dose of reality. Duke's Mike Dunleavy delivered the medicine during a swift seven-minute spurt in the first half that left heads spinning at the ESA. Scoring 15 consecutive points in the latter stages of the half, Dunleavy spearheaded a 23-2 run that virtually put the game out of reach before halftime. As it so often does, Duke, which eventually settled for a 76-57 win, had served up yet another cold dish of humble pie.
"Playing Duke that night showed us that we were nowhere close to where we needed to be," said NC State guard Archie Miller. "Right now, we're probably still not where we need to be to compete at a level consistently every night with a team like that. It gave us a little bit of a drive to say, 'you know what? We better get our butts in gear or it's going to be another long season.'"
The Pack did get it 'in gear' and managed to put together a nice little four-game winning streak after falling to the Blue Devils that night. Now 18-6 overall and ranked 24th in the latest AP college basketball poll, NC State will test itself yet again against college basketball's hottest program. Other than an unexpected slip at Florida State in early January, the Blue Devils have looked the part of a team that seems serious about winning another national championship. In fact, Duke's current 22-1 record matches the best start in school history.
"Right now, you almost have to play a perfect basketball game [to beat Duke]" said NC State head coach Herb Sendek. "I tip my cap to the amazing list of accomplishments that they have right now. They have great talent, they're extremely well organized and they play with a real sense of purpose on both ends of the floor. They're not the number one team in the country by accident. They really deserve to be there."
Duke's offensive firepower has been well chronicled. In Jason Williams (21.5 ppg., 5.4 apg.), Dunleavy (18.1 ppg, 7.1 rb.) and center Carlos Boozer ( 17.7 ppg., 8.4 rb.), the Blue Devils feature three probable All-ACC first team players. As a team, Duke leads the league in several categories, including scoring (91.1), three-point field goals per game (8.9) and field goal percentage (48.9 %). The Blue Devils also generate a lot of offense from their defense, which is forcing 21 turnovers per contest.
Then there is the Cameron factor. Duke's homecourt, Cameron Indoor Stadium, creates nearly as much discomfort for visiting teams as the Blue Devils themselves. One thing's for sure: NC State's freshman players will be in for an eye-opening experience on Thursday night.
"They're going to see things they haven't seen before," Miller said. "That first 10 minutes of the game is something you aren't quite ready for at the start. But our guys are very seasoned, they play well beyond their years and a lot of them play a lot of minutes. I think it's more of a factor for a guy who comes in for spot action and comes back out. When you first get over there you get a little nervous, but once the ball gets tipped, it really doesn't faze you anymore."
NC State will have to be at its best to have any kind of chance of winning at Duke, meaning Anthony Grundy must be healthy. Grundy, who leads the Wolfpack in scoring (16.7 ppg), rebounding (5.6), assists (89) and steals (57), was bothered by a flare-up of tendinitis in his ankle during NC State's win at Florida State on Sunday. After taking it easy on Monday and Tuesday, he is expected to be at full-strength for Thursday's game.
"Anthony has had a sensational year," said Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski. "He's been one of the most valuable players in the league. He's given them leadership and he's certainly put up the stats. But I think he's even added a new level of toughness that each team that wins needs, especially from a veteran player. I really admire him and the year he's had, but also in the way he is used. I think that Herb and his staff have done a good job of putting Anthony in a position where his talents can be utilized. If you watch his positioning on the court offensively throughout the game, it's really interesting. You never know exactly where he's going to be."
More than likely, Duke defensive ace Dahntay Jones will follow Grundy wherever he goes. In the first game, the 6-6 Jones held Grundy to just seven points and 3-of-11 shooting from the field.
Thursday's matchup will be the 216th meeting between the two Big Four Rivals, who started playing each other in 1912. Duke owns a 122-93 edge in the all-time series. The Blue Devils have also won the last 11 and 16 of the last 17 against NC State.