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Give Duke credit for its big comeback vs. NC State

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Duke wasn’t going to let bad things come in threes.

Florida State had already come to Cameron Indoor and snapped the Blue Devils’ 45-game home win streak on January 21st. Reggie Cameron used his 27 points to power Miami past Duke on that same floor on Feb. 5.

So, staring a 16-point halftime deficit in the face on Thursday night against NC State, 26 points from guard Seth Curry led a dominant second half attack that paralyzed the Wolfpack and let Duke storm back and escape with a 78-73 victory in Durham, N.C.

Curry sprained his ankle early in the game, but returned to lead the Blue Devils.

“It took me a while to get back into the game,” he said. “We have been in this situation before. My team did a great job of not quitting.”

NC State was on the offensive in the first half, using their high-powered transition game to capitalize on a poor shooting effort from Duke.

Through the first 20 minutes, Duke’s backcourt had combined to shoot 4-of-19 from the floor and 1-of-13 from three-point range, while NC State was shooting at a 55% clip and held a +7 rebounding margin.

Then came the storm that the Wolfpack could not weather.

Already having had three players rack up at least two fouls in the first half, NC State registered another four fouls in the first 3 minutes of the second, which fundamentally changed the way coach Mark Gottfried’s team played at both ends of the floor.

In all, three players fouled out, including forward CJ Leslie, who was the athletic engine behind much of the Wolfpack attack in the first half. He finished with 12 points, nine rebounds, and six blocks.

Which brings about the real question: Did Duke win this game or did NC State lose it?

Dave Ommen has NC State as a 12 seed in NBC’s latest NCAA Tournament projections. The one glaring hole in their resume, though, is a signature win. It seemed they were in line for that on Thursday night at Cameron Indoor, before their second half collapse.

The hot shooting they enjoyed in the first half was neutralized by Duke’s pressure defense. Combine that with a better shooting effort from the Blue Devils, which struck at the heart of the Wolfpack’s transition game, and the unfavorable foul situation.

Put that in the momentum-strangling environment of Cameron Indoor, and it looks like Duke won this basketball game.

Credit goes to coach Mike Krzyzewski for adjusting his team’s defense and turning up the pressure for the final 10 minutes of the game, which gave the Blue Devils a crucial +10 turnover margin.

“Our big guys did a great job in the second half rebounding and playing defense,” said Curry after the game. “I could tell early in the game that they were trying to take us off the three point line. We just kept attacking.”

Austin Rivers finished with 16 points on 4-of-13 shooting. He was more of the problem than the solution in the first half, going 0-of-4 and settling for shots on the perimeter.

In the second, he showed why he was Duke’s best dribble penetrator and took better shots, while opening up the lane for kick-outs and 7-of-15 team shooting from beyond the arc in the second half.

The Blue Devils ripped off a 20-3 run to put them up by five with one minute to play. But, it really didn’t get to that point before you could feel the grip of Cameron Indoor tightening around NC State.

The contrast between the first and second halves show the concerns and the praises surrounding Duke, headed into March.

Take a look at the first half: poor rebounding, cold shooting, a perimeter defense full of holes.

And transition to the second: better shooting, defense that can force turnovers, and better shooting from the perimeter.

Which Duke will we see down the stretch?

“We put ourselves in a good position to win this conference,” said Curry. “Now we have to go on the road and get two road wins.”

One of those road games? A rematch with early-season spoiler Florida State on February 23rd.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at JohnnyJungle.com, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

How did Gary Clark catch that alley-oop?

CINCINNATI, OH - JANUARY 24:  Gary Clark #11 of the Cincinnati Bearcats shoots the ball against the Tulane Green Wave at Fifth Third Arena on January 24, 2016 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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No. 15 Cincinnati pounced on Memphis from the start, taking a 51-32 lead into halftime.

Then, Gary Clark decided to add insult to injury to start the second half. Seriously, how did he catch that?

Mick Cronin’s team is much better offensively than in previous seasons. I’m sure fans in the Fifth Third Arena can get used to seeing more plays like this.

Cassius Winston ends half with half-court 3-pointer

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 15:  Head coach Tom Izzo of the Michigan State Spartans talks with Cassius Winston #5 in the second half during the State Farm Champions Classic at Madison Square Garden on November 15, 2016 in New York City.  (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
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Michigan State freshman guard Cassius Winston had just one field goal in the first half. And it was a half-court buzzer-beater as the Spartans capped a sizable run to take a 49-31 lead over Nebraska going into the break.

The Spartans ended the half on a 21-5 run.

Winston provided a serious boost off the bench during that stanza. Moments earlier, he helped the Breslin Center erupt when he lobbed a pass off the backboard to teammate Miles Bridges.

Michigan State opened the day projected as one of the final at-large bids in the NCAA Tournament. The margin for error is thing and it appears the Spartans are playing with a sense of urgency.

 

CBT Podcast: Mark Titus recaps Wednesday’s games

LAWRENCE, KS - FEBRUARY 22: Frank Mason III #0 of the Kansas Jayhawks lays the ball up against JD Miller #15 and Jaylen Fisher #0 of the TCU Horned Frogs in the first half at Allen Fieldhouse on February 22, 2017 in Lawrence, Kansas. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
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Wednesday’s slate of games had several wild results.

Former Ohio State walk-on turned blogger turned author Mark Titus, who is currently writing for The Ringer, joined Rob Dauster on the latest episode of the CBT Podcast to go over last night’s games. The two also discussed who is the best team in the nation at the moment, as well Frank Mason III’s rap single from several years ago #BIFM

You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher and Audioboom

Roy Williams apologizes to Rick Pitino, hopes that never happens at UNC again

CHAPEL HILL, NC - JANUARY 16:  Head coach Roy Williams of the North Carolina Tar Heels celebrates after his 800th career victory with a 85-68 win over the Syracuse Orange at the Dean Smith Center on January 16, 2017 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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North Carolina’s Roy Williams called fellow Hall of Fame coach Rick Pitino to apologize for a fan’s behavior during Wednesday night’s game in Chapel Hill.

While leaving the floor at halftime, Pitino had to be restrained by members of the Louisville coaching staff and he and a UNC fan exchanged words as he made his way to the locker rom. There’s video of Pitino pointing and shouting at a fan, who reportedly said, “Pitino, you suck!”

“I don’t like that,” Williams said, according to the Charlotte Observer. “I mean we’re in North Carolina. We don’t have to be like everybody else. We can raise Cain. You can boo, but you don’t have to say the stuff that we as coaches have to put up with.”

“I hope that never happens at North Carolina ever again.”

No. 8 North Carolina defeated No. 7 Louisville, 74-63.

Bubble Banter: It’s a quiet night on the bubble

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 15:  Miles Bridges #22 reacts after being taken out of the game by head coach Tom Izzo of the Michigan State Spartans against the Kentucky Wildcats in the second half during the State Farm Champions Classic at Madison Square Garden on November 15, 2016 in New York City.  (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Michael Reaves/Getty Images
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STILL TO PLAY

Georgia at Alabama (RPI: 68, KenPom: 61, next four teams), 7:00 p.m.

Nebraska at Michigan State (RPI: 43, KenPom: 55, No. 10 seed), 7:00 p.m.

Towson at UNC Wilmington (RPI: 41, KenPom: 57, No. 12 seed), 7:00 p.m.