Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski was generous in his praise for N.C. State on Tuesday night after the secon-ranked Blue Devils won 73-56 at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
The Wolfpack led by six early in the second half and trailed just 58-55 with 5 minutes, 30 seconds remaining before Duke scored 15 of the final 16 points.
"Those two guys [Ben McCauley and Brandon Costner] are really good,” Krzyzewski said. “They’re not [just] good. They’re really good. And I think they’re getting more solid point guard play.
"[Courtney] Fells hasn’t played like he can play yet. I don’t know if he’s still hampered by, doesn’t he have an ankle injury? He’s an elite player when he’s right. If he gets right, then you have three guys. And they do have good complementary guys in there, guys that can make shots.
"Not everyone in the league will play them defensively as hard [as Duke]. They might play zone or play off. Like against [Georgia] Tech, [Trevor] Ferguson got three huge threes. We tried not to let him get an open look. I think they’re good. They’ve played us really well the last three ballgames.
"Sidney [Lowe] has a way of trying to figure out what weakness you have in your defense and goes at it. He’s a good coach. He’s a good coach.”
Disgruntled N.C. State fans might say it’s easy for Krzyzewski to shovel out that kind of praise after Duke won by 17. To be sure, there were plenty of things wrong with the Wolfpack on Tuesday:
• Starting point guard Farnold Degand committed six turnovers – three in the first two minutes and three in the final 5:07.
• Aside from Brandon Costner, N.C. State was 0-for-10 from beyond the 3-point arc.
• For the second time in three games, N.C. State folded at the end. Florida State scored 19 of the final 21 points against the Wolfpack one week before N.C. State collapsed against Duke.
“The second half, they just kept coming at us and coming at us,” Lowe said of Duke. “We turned the ball over too many times to beat a club like Duke.
• Krzyzewski made a curious decision to keep forward Kyle Singler in the game after he was called for his fourth foul with 7:59 remaining. After the game, Krzyzewski said he left Singler in the game because he trusted him.
“Many games are won from the eight-minute mark to the four-minute mark,” Krzyzewski said. “Everyone sees the last four minutes, but if we don’t win those eight to four [minutes], we’re not going to win the game. So I didn’t think it was much of a gamble.”
• Some N.C. State fans last week were posting the opinion on Internet message boards that Lowe should start playing the guys he recruited and bench the players former coach Herb Sendek recruited.
The Wolfpack’s statistics from Tuesday show how foolish that would be. Players signed by Sendek scored 38 points in 121 minutes against Duke. Players signed by Lowe scored 18 points in 79 minutes.
In fact, N.C. State’s biggest problem might be that it doesn’t have a point guard signed by Sendek. The Wolfpack has to play a point guard signed by Lowe. On Tuesday, those three point guards combined for six points, nine turnovers and six assists.