ACC Basketball

Duke Doesn’t Collapse…Advances

Mark Dolejs-USA TODAY Sports

No matter what happens, Duke stud’s Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood are going to get the headlines and they deserve it. In Duke’s 75-67 victory over North Carolina State, Parker controlled the paint, stayed aggressive and scored 20 points, grabbing eight boards. Rodney Hood scored 14 points and did a solid job defending ACC Player of the Year T.J. Warner.

However, if I’ve learned anything from watching Adam Sandler movies; stars can only do so much. True success comes from having a Rob Scheider and a Jonathan Loughran, a supporting cast not afraid to step up when needed.

For Duke, that’s always the big mystery, who, if anyone, can step up and share the spotlight? In Saturday’s second semifinals, Rasheed Sulaimon and Quinn Cook combined to score 30 points on 11-17 shooting. Sulaimon often took it strong to the rim, unafraid of the Wolfpack shot blockers. Cook did his damage from behind the three-point line, busting State’s 2-3 zone.

Of course, in the first half, scoring wasn’t a problem for either team. While Duke hit 50% of their first half shots, N.C. State shot 68% from the floor. It was the second straight half the Blue Devils allowed an opponent to shoot nearly 70% from the floor.

However, in the second half, Duke’s decision to double team T.J. Warren started to pay off. The ACC’s leading score struggled to find an opening. In fact, Warren had an 18-minute stretch where he hit just two baskets in an 18-time frame. He finished with 21, but he needed 22 shots to get there.

Now this would be the time for some role players for the Wolfpack to step up, but none could. Outside of Lennard Freeman’s early production, no one could stop Duke from making a second-half run. Ralston Turner, who scored 22 against Miami two games earlier, hit just 2-10 from three.

The fact is, the Wolfpack appeared to be running out of gas. N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried tried to switch to a 2-3 zone to cut his players some slack, but the Blue Devils are well versed with the zone by now and simply abused it.

Duke would open up a 13-point lead with just under four minutes to go. Some free throw troubles made the game a little interesting at the end, but it was clear the Blue Devils were not going to blow this one.

Now N.C. State has to go home to Raleigh and wait for to hear their fate Sunday night. During the game, Dick Vitale said the Wolfpack most certainly belonged in the NCAA Tournament and there was “no doubt about it.” Of course whenever Vitale says there is no doubt about anything…you should have some doubt. The BMI, the rating system that ESPN swears by, only has the Wolfpack at #52.

As for Duke, they are back in the ACC title game for the first time since 2011.

 

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