DURHAM -- One of the more important moments in Duke’s comeback against N.C. State on Thursday night came in the first half, just as the Wolfpack was building a commanding early lead.
Seth Curry went up for a loose ball and came down awkwardly. When he got up, he put weight on his ankle to see if he could continue.The grimace on his face suggested Curry’s return was far from certain.
“When he went out, I thought he was gone,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “Jose (Fonseca), our trainer, was just telling me that Seth said, ‘Man, I don’t know if I can go,’ and Jose said, ‘You have to go.’ Seth said, ‘It hurts,’ and Jose said, ‘I’ll give you a shot.’”
Bolstered by the shot and a re-taping of his ankle, Curry returned to Duke’s 78-73 win over the Wolfpack, scoring 26 points to key Duke’s rally from a 20-point second half deficit. The Blue Devils junior scored 21 of those points in the second half, and Curry was at his best as Duke tightened the screws against the reeling Wolfpack.
Curry scored 14 of the Blue Devils’ 30 points during the stretch when Duke turned a 61-41 deficit into a 72-71 advantage.
“That was a heroic performance by Seth,” Krzyzewski said.
Matched up against Scott Wood for much of the Duke run, Curry was able to drive to the basket with impunity and score most of his points in the lane as Wood struggled to keep up defensively. Curry’s only 3-pointer during the stretch was a shot that brought the fifth-ranked Blue Devils (22-4, 9-2) within two, 71-69, with 3:18 remaining.
“I thought I had matchups where I could take them off the dribble, and I did just that,” Curry said.
The 26 points were a career-high for Curry. Through the combination of making all five of his free throws and having N.C. State’s Scott Wood miss three of his, Curry now leads the ACC in free-throw shooting, hitting 87.2 percent of his attempts on the season.
That’s not the conference race Curry is most interested in, of course.
By rallying against the Wolfpack, Duke is still in the midst of a three-team battle for the ACC regular season championship along with UNC and Florida State.
“We’ve got to win at home to (win the conference),” Curry said. “It would’ve hurt a lot of we had lost this game.”