Jan. 3, 2013
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RALEIGH, N.C. - The NC State women's basketball team put forth one of its best defensive efforts of the season, but the third-ranked Duke Blue Devils prevailed with a 67-57 ACC victory Thursday evening in Reynolds Coliseum.
"I'm really proud of our kids, their intensity and their fight," said NC State head coach Kellie Harper. "I think we have a chance to beat any team in our league playing like this. Duke is a really good basketball team, but we'll try again next time."
Junior forward Kody Burke led the Wolfpack (8-6, 0-2 ACC) with 15 points and six rebounds, while senior guard Marissa Kastanek added 12 points, three assists and two steals on the night.
"I feel like our guards really just look for me," said Burke. I feel like a lot of my points come from our guards being unselfish."
In a first half that featured an abundance of loose balls, turnovers and a high tempo of play on both ends of the floor, the Wolfpack forced the Blue Devils into nine turnovers, while blocking three shots and holding Duke to just 31 first-half points.
NC State shot 9-of-29 (.310) from the field, 1-of-8 (.125) from three-point range and 9-of-12 (.750) from the free throw line, while Duke was 15-of-36 (.417) from the floor, 0-of-6 from beyond the arc and just 1-of-3 from the foul line in the half.
"I thought we did some good things defensively," Harper said. "The biggest area that hurt us were some of the long rebounds. I thought our half-court defense was pretty solid."
Coming out of the locker rooms, the two sides traded baskets before Duke (12-0, 2-0 ACC) broke out on an 11-3 run that began with a Haley Peters three-pointer with six minutes remaining in the game. The Blue Devils would expand its lead to as many as 11 with 2:27 left, but NC State did not concede.
NC State went on a 7-0 run to cut the Blue Devil lead to four at 61-57 following a pair of free throws by junior guard Len'Nique Brown with 47 seconds remaining, but three defensive stops by Duke and six free throw conversions would seal NC State's fate as time expired.
"I think we know that Duke is always a good team," Kastanek said. "We know we have to come with that extra focus and extra intensity when we play them."
The Wolfpack finished the night shooting 18-of-56 (.321) overall from the floor, 6-of-17 (.353) from three-point range and 15-of-21 (.714) from the free-throw stripe. Defensively, the team held Duke to a 24-of-61 (.393) clip from the field and just 2-of-14 (.143) shooting from beyond the three-point line. The Blue Devils managed to connect on 17-of-23 (.739) free throws, collectively.
Duke guard Chelsea Gray led the Blue Devils with 20 points and six rebounds, while Peters led posted a double-double with 18 points and 11 rebounds.
"She's just a very talented player," Harper said in regards to Peters after the game. "We have a lot of respect for her."
The Pack's bench outscored Duke's by a 21-4 margin on the night, but the Blue Devils doubled the Wolfpack's scoring in the paint at a 36-18 clip, while capitalizing with 17 points off turnovers to NC State's seven.
Sophomore forward Kiana Evans scored eight points off the bench - six of which came on two unexpected, but successful, connections on three-point attempts.
"We try to get a good rotation with our bench," Harper stated. "She [Evans] has a really nice touch on the floor. I want our kids playing freely on offense. I thought they took good shots tonight.
"I also thought she did one heck of a job defensively. That's one place where she really helped us tonight."
NC State will return to action on Sunday, Jan. 6 when the team makes a short trip west to Winston-Salem, N.C., to take on Wake Forest. Opening tip is scheduled for 2 p.m.