Duke hosts Wolfpack

NC State (18-7 SU/9-12 ATS) has been idle since last Thursday, when it posted a 61-52 win at Georgia Tech as four-point road favorites. C.J. Williams finished with 15 points and C.J. Leslie added a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds. Lorenzo Brown and Scott Wood each contributed 10 points in the win. Wood entered the game with an ACC record 66 consecutive free throws, but he uncharacteristically finished just 2-of-5 from the stripe.

NC State was outrebounded 24-14 in the first half, but they still took a 26-24 lead into the break after holding Georgia Tech to 28 percent and 1-of-9 from downtown in the opening 20 minutes. The Wolfpack started the second half with an 11-4 run to take control of the game. They never trailed and the Yellow Jackets would get no closer than four points the rest of the way. NC State shot 40.9 percent overall (20-of-49) and 6-of-17 from beyond the arc (35 percent), while Georgia Tech connected on a mere 32 percent (19-of-59), including an atrocious 1-of-17 from three-point range.

NC State was outrebounded 42-31 overall, but the Wolfpack made up for the deficit on the glass by scoring 16 points off 16 Tech turnovers. It was a measure of revenge for NC State, which lost 82-71 at home to the ‘Jackets on January 11.

Head coach Mark Gottfried has turned the program around in his first season in Raleigh. The Wolfpack returned three starters from last year’s 15-16 squad and the team has played well for the most part this season. Their losses have been against the nation’s elite, with setbacks coming against nationally ranked Vanderbilt (86-79), Indiana (86-75), Syracuse (88-72), North Carolina (74-55) and Virginia (61-60).

Gottfried has been a winner in his career. His first head coaching gig came at Murray State, where he led the Racers to a 68-24 record over three years. He was hired at Alabama in 1998 and had a solid ten-year run, taking the Crimson Tide to five straight NCAA tournaments from 2002-06 and reached the Elite Eight in 2004, while also achieving the school’s first ever No. 1 ranking in 2003.

NC State is a well balanced team with five players averaging in double-digits. Wood leads the ‘Pack in scoring (13.4 ppg) and is shooting 44 percent from long range. Leslie (13.0 PPG, 6.2 RPG) and Williams (12.1 PPG, 3.9 RPG) both shoot over 50 percent from the field, while Brown (11.8 PPG, 4.42 RPG) ranks 2nd in the ACC and 7th in the nation with 6.7 assists per game. Richard Howell rounds out the double-digit scorers with 11.4 PPG and an impressive 9.2 boards per game.

Duke (21-4 SU/11-14 ATS) is coming off a 73-55 home win over Maryland as -15 point favorites on Saturday. Seth Curry scored a game-high 19 points and Mason Plumlee had a double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds for Duke, which has won four of five, including a last-second 85-84 victory at rival North Carolina last Wednesday. Miles Plumlee had a tremendous game with 13 points and a career-high 22 rebounds. Plumlee became the first Duke player to have 20 or more rebounds in a game since Elton Brand cleaned the glass 21 times back in November, 1998.

Duke came out a little flat against the Terrapins following their emotional win over the Tar Heels. They only led 32-29 at the break and it was 53-50 with 8:45 remaining in the second half. However, the Blue Devils ended the game on a 20-5 run and knocked down a meaningless three-pointer in the waning seconds to get the cover as well. Duke outrebounded Maryland, 48-33, which led to a 21-4 edge in second chance points. Duke finished 9-of-24 from downtown (37.5 percent) and 25-of-65 overall (38.5 percent), while Maryland struggled from long range (1-of-14). Austin Rivers, who hit the game winning three-pointer at the buzzer to beat the Tar Heels, finished with 11 points.

Duke came into the game having lost two of its last three home games. They lost 76-73 to Florida State on January 21 and 78-74 in OT to Miami-Florida on February 5, with its only home over that span an 83-76 decision over St. John’s in a near epic collapse.

Like NC State, Duke is a well-balanced unit with four starters in double figures. Rivers leads the way with 15.0 PPG, while Curry is good for 12.9 PPG. Ryan Kelly adds 12.4 PPG and 5.4 RPG and Mason Plumlee completes the quartet with 11.9 PPG and a team-high 9.9 RPG. The ‘Devils also get solid contributions from Andre Dawkins (9.3 PPG) and Miles Plumlee, who posts 6.5 PPG and 6.4 RPG.

Duke won both meetings with NC State last year, 92-78 as 10½-point road favorites and 76-52 as 19-point home chalks in the rematch. NC State is 8-19 ATS against winning teams and 6-19-1 ATS in ACC games, but they are 6-2 ATS on the road lately and 5-1 ATS on the road against winning teams. Duke counters with a 1-5 ATS run at home, but the Devils are 5-2-1 ATS when hosting NC State.

The Wolfpack are vying for an NCAA bid and they are approaching its toughest stretch of the season as they face the ACC’s top three teams over the next 11 days (#4 Duke, # 21 Florida State, and # 7 North Carolina); but they are 6-3 ATS as a road underdog between 9½ and 12 points and this one might be closer than expected.

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