Duke is focused on fixing the defensive errors that led to plays like this C.J. Leslie dunk. Credit: CHUCK LIDDY
Duke vs. N.C. State
When: 9 p.m.
Where: Cameron Indoor Stadium, Durham
TV/Radio: WRAL-ACC Network/WKIX-102.9 FM
Lots of pregame reading for this one:
Joe Giglio on a potential case of voodoo that's been plaguing Triangle point guards of late
Here's a position-by-position breakdown, courtesy of esteemed colleague and N.C. State beat writer Joe Giglio.
Tale of the Tape
PG Tyler Lewis (2.8 ppg, 1.4 apg) vs. Quinn Cook (11.5 ppg, 6.2 apg)
N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried made a smart adjustment with Lewis, who’s about five inches shorter than Lorenzo Brown, against Miami and helped Lewis with more ball screens than they run for Brown, the regular point guard who is nursing an injured ankle. Lewis is creative in two-man situations and has a knack for putting his teammates in the best position to score.
Duke also frees Cook with ball screens, but he’s a more effective finisher than Lewis. The trick for Lewis will be duplicating his effort from the Miami game not only on the road but in the toughest place to play in the country.
SG Rodney Purvis (9.8 ppg, 1.7 apg) vs. Seth Curry (16.3 ppg, 43 pct. 3pt.)
Even with a bad wheel, Curry gouged N.C. State for 22 points in the loss in Raleigh and had 26 in the comeback win over State in Durham last season. You can’t go under screens on Curry, which means defending him requires a team effort with the forwards. Purvis, who was a little loose with the ball against Miami, should be motivated against Duke, who recruited him out of high school but ultimately decided to hitch its wagon to Rasheed Sulaimon.
G Scott Wood (11.5 ppg, 43 pct. 3pt) vs. Rasheed Sulaimon (11.8 ppg, 3.3 rpg)
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski always pays Wood the ultimate compliment by designing the defensive game plan around him. Wood had struggled against Duke, mostly for that reason, but he did make all three of his 3-pointers in the win over Duke on Jan. 12.
To put it politely, Sulaimon struggled (0 for 10) in the first game against State. He was better before and much better since that game, but it’s not really smart to bet against Wood.
SF C.J. Leslie (15.7 ppg; 7.5 rpg) vs. Amile Jefferson (4.7 ppg, 3.1 rpg)
Leslie has come off the bench the past two games, due to a bout with the flu and a disciplinary issue, and really has been the primary player to pick up the slack in Brown’s absence. Leslie also was really good in the first game against Duke (25 points), in part because he is quicker than Duke’s bigs, either Mason Plumlee or the combination of Josh Hairston and Jefferson.
Jefferson, a freshman who nearly went to N.C. State, played an inspired but foul-shortened game against the Wolfpack on Jan. 12. He had 10 points but lasted only 12 minutes. He has put up respectable numbers in injured senior Ryan Kelly’s stead but he will have to put on his big-boy pants to corral Leslie.
PF Richard Howell (12.8 ppg, 10.9 rpg) vs. Mason Plumlee (17.6 ppg; 10.8 rpg)
Howell should laminate Krzyzewski’s post-game comments from the Wolfpack win on Jan. 12 and hand them out to NBA scouts. “He’s a kid that every team would want and start and would be so easy to play with,” Krzyzewski said after Howell’s 16-point, 18-rebound performance.
Of course, Plumlee has been pretty strong this season, too. Plumlee has a longer reach than Howell and has to find a way to use that to his advantage. Any combination of Howell-Leslie-Plumlee getting together is a bonus for anyone who appreciates good basketball.
With Kelly still out with a foot injury and Hairston (arm injury) in doubt for Duke and Brown likely out with an ankle injury for State, the descriptor “thin” gets new meaning. Even though State’s bench consists of one player, Durham native T.J. Warren, it’s still more production than Duke can reasonably expect from Marshall Plumlee, Tyler Thornton or Alex Murphy.
Edge: N.C. State
Gottfried doesn’t particularly care for historical stats, but it’s hard to ignore Krzyzewski’s home record (23-5) against State. The Wolfpack hasn’t beaten Duke, with Coach K on the bench, since the 1987-88 season, a span of 20 games. State has lost 14 consecutive overall in Durham (beating interim coach Pete Gaudet’s team in 1994-95), including last year’s epic collapse.
History aside, there’s the matter of Duke being exceptional at home, N.C. State struggling on the road and having to play without Brown.
***Duke hasn't played since last Saturday, so that means Seth Curry had extra time to rest his weary right shin, which has bothered him all year and admittedly causes a lot of pain.
"Whenever I get a day off or especially two days off, it makes a difference," Curry said. "These days off are huge for me."
To maintain his cardiovascular fitness, Curry runs on an underwater treadmill and bikes a stationary bike. He's been pleasantly surprised with his level of fitness.
Curry also said that he doesn't feel like teams are trying to target his injury. Running around screens to get open looks has always been a physical challenge—N.C. State's Scott Wood said it was like running through a "minefield"—so Curry has dealt with that throughout his career.
"Teams were always trying to beat me up and take my legs, things like that, throughout the game as long as I’ve been here," he said. "That’s nothing new. Teams try to be physical with me, and I’ve just got to crafty if I’m going to get to the free throw line and play through things."