THURSDAY, DECEMBER 26, 2005
Duke storms past the Wolfpack
RALEIGH — With 8:42 showing on the scoreboard in the spacious RBC Center Thursday night, Duke's Sheldon Williams was very confident. N.C. State's Ilian Evtimov was worried.
There was reason for those respective feelings of security and insecurity. The Blue Devils had just scored on their ninth successive possession to establish a 67-59 lead and were in solid control of the outcome which ended 86-72 in their favor. This is the only regular-season meeting between the teams.
Duke, which had lost on two consecutive trips to the Wolfpack's den, made sure there wouldn't be a third denial with a second-half domination. The 5th ranked Blue Devils, after trailing by three points at halftime, captured their second Atlantic Coast Conference victory and remained perfect (12-0).
Williams scored 18 of his game high 22 points in the final half and the nation's leading rebounder controlled the lanes on both ends of the court. "The Landlord" had six rebounds and blocked three Wolfpack shots.
"I thought we were in good shape," said Williams. "I was getting the ball in good position in the low post and was able to score or get fouled."
And, on one series, while being tripled-teamed, he passed to teammate Lee Melchionni for a lay-up.
"We just broke down defensively," said Evtimov, "and we had no answer for Williams. Our focus coming into the game was to stop their big three.....Redick, Williams and Ewing, but it was the other guys that killed us."
The other guys turned out to be the unsung heroes. Melchionni, a junior making only his career second start, scored a career-high 16 points and kept a stagnant Blue Devil offense afloat in the first half.
The other culprit was freshman DeMarcus Nelson, who netted a season high 15 points and scored one of the game's pivotal baskets on an offensive putback as the Wolfpack was threatening.
Redick, a prime target for Wolfpack defenders, was hounded relentlessly by Engin Atsur and Cameron Bennerman, and was able to get off only five field- goal attempts.
One of the nation's leading 3-point shooters, Redick misfired on all four tries from beyond the arc, but made good on all six free throws. The output broke a string of 17 consecutive double-digit outings for the junior marksman.
"Engin (Atsur) did an outstanding job on Redick," said head Wolfpack coach Herb Sendek. "And Cameron (Bennerman) did also as he spelled Engin at times. It is really a testament to their focus over the long course of a game."
Sendek alluded to a season long bug-a-boo in identifying his team's demise.
"It boiled down to our inability to stop them. When the ball went into Williams it turned out to be a two-man game as he caused a lot of problems, especially in the second half when he became their focus," Sendek said.
Duke's patented pick-and-roll manuvers parlayed into several easy baskets.
After tallying only six points in the paint in the first half, the Blue Devils stormed the lanes for 28 in the second period.
The Wolfpack absorbed its second ACC league defeat without a win, and fell to 10-5 overall and lost for their fifth time in its last seven contests. No. 9-ranked Georgia Tech visits Sunday.
The Wolfpack had an electric sell-out crowd frenzied in the first half as it established superiority for the initial 20 minutes. State led by as many as 10 points 28-18 and maintained a 5-to-7 differential for most of the half.
"Their was a lot of energy in the building," said Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski, "but most of it was on State's side. Their offense just killed our defense and their man-to-man was really good."
With leading scorer Julius Hodge being limited to only one first-half field goal, seven other Wolfpackers contributed to the scoring, spearheaded by Bennerman and freshman Gavin Grant. Bennerman supplied 12 points and Grant had seven (all in a 90-second span) to match his career high with a trio resulting in acrobatic dunks.
The effort awarded the Pack a 41-38 halftime cushion.
The teams made 19 straight free throws before a Daniel Ewing miss and concluded with a splendid 22-of-23 showing.
The Wolfpack didn't start the second half with as much physical abandon and intensity and Duke changed its schemes and found holes in the defense.
For the second straight game, Ewing asserted his talents as a take-charge guy. After, scoring only eight points in the first half, he responded with nine more in the final segment and made several key steals and assists.
He was involved in the game's most bizarre play with Duke leading 59-54 at the 10:27 mark. N.C. State's Hodge had possession of the basketball but was whistled for a personal foul as he swiped the ball near Ewing's intruding face.
When Sendek was quizzed about the incident he revealed that "it was the manner in which the ball was projected."
The Pack made one last run as a Grant basket cut the deficit to 67-63 at the 7:17 juncture, but the Blue Devils outscored the Pack 19-11from there.
The Blue Devils concluded their scoring the same way they started — Redick swished a pair of free throws.
Bennerman finished with 20 points to lead State while Hodge added 13.