RALEIGH — For the fourth straight time, Duke traveled to PNC Arena as one of the top two teams in the nation, and suffered a loss to NC State.
The Wolfpack led the entire second half, pulling off a 96-85 upset of the Blue Devils on Saturday night, triggering a court storm and raucous celebration by the NC State faithful.
Duke has not defended its top two national rating at PNC since 2002. The Blue Devils lost to the Pack in 2004, 2013 and 2015. The improbable streak was even more surprising this time around, given State’s recent history. The Wolfpack had dropped their first two ACC games and was coming off of a 30-point loss to a Notre Dame team that was missing its best player.
“Coming back from a 30-point loss and responding like this, as a team, is an amazing feeling,” said Omer Yurtseven. Matched up against likely No. 1 NBA Draft pick Marvin Bagley III and fellow Duke big man Wendell Carter Jr., Yurtseven had 16 points and nine rebounds and appeared to dominate Duke inside.
“All I focused on was playing my game and showing everybody I’m at the same level,” Yurtseven said. “I would say this was one of my best games.”
State shot 50.7 percent from the field and dished out 17 assists, while battling Duke to a 34-32 edge in rebounding.
“In order for us to be very successful, we all have to play together,” said NC State coach Kevin Keatts. “I challenged the guys the last couple days: We had a chance to win if we could win the rebounding battle.”
The Pack also forced 16 Duke turnovers, including eight from freshman point guard Trevon Duval as the more experienced Wolfpack took advantage of the freshman-laden Blue Devils.
“They played with an incredible verve,” said Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski. “They’re veterans. They played like men, which they are. We played young, which we are.”
The effort allowed State to withstand another strong outing from Bagley. The freshman scored 31 points and pulled down 10 rebounds, both game highs. He suffered five turnovers, however, and, like the rest of the Blue Devils, had a long night on defense.
State had six players score in double figures, including big men Lennard Freeman (13), Abdul-Malik Abu (10) and Torin Dorn (16) as the Pack outscored the Blue Devils 20-17 on second-chance points and put up 44 points in the paint against a Duke team that rode inside play to the No. 2 ranking.
“Knowing everybody has each other’s back and fighting against a more talented team, using our experience, using our strength, it’s just an amazing feeling,” Yurtseven said.
The win was State’s 19th against a top-two opponent, tying UCLA for fifth-most in NCAA history. The win was Keatts’ first conference victory at NC State and his second this year over a No. 2 opponent. The Pack beat then No. 2 Arizona in November’s Battle4Atlantis tournament.
“I’m going to start telling them that everybody is No. 2 in the nation,” Keatts joked.
The loss dropped Duke to 1-2 in the ACC, with a comeback win over Florida State as its only victory. The Blue Devils are faced with questions about team defense and leadership, after senior Grayson Allen suffered through his worst game of the year. Allen had just eight points on 3-of-9 shooting.
“Grayson didn’t play well,” Krzyzewski said.
Allen’s struggles left Duke’s talented freshmen to learn a valuable lesson against the veteran Wolfpack big men.
“They had these young guys that were really, really good,” Abu said. “We just wanted to show that these old guys had a little something in the tank, too.”