Reliving a Nightmare

Duke probably doesn't want any reminders of its unhappy ending to last season, but North Carolina State would be happy to relive its role in the Blue Devils' demise.

Third-ranked Duke will host the Wolfpack on Thursday in the teams' first meeting since N.C. State upset the Blue Devils in the first round of last season's ACC tournament, hoping to display just how far it has come since last spring by extending its winning streak to eight.

Oddsmakers from Bodog have made Duke –18 point spread favorites (View College Basketball odds) for today’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 55% of bets for this game have been placed on NC State +18 (View College Basketball bet percentages).

The Blue Devils lost their last four games of last season, including an 85-80 overtime defeat to 10th-seeded N.C. State in the ACC tournament in Tampa. It was the first time Duke fell in the first round of the conference tournament since the 1996-97 season.

But Duke, which went on to lose in the first round of the NCAA tournament to Virginia Commonwealth, has been playing at a higher level this season.

The Blue Devils (17-1, 5-0) are the only unbeaten team left in ACC play, and are coming off what coach Mike Krzyzewski called their "most impressive half of the season."

They outscored Maryland 51-33 in the second half to erase a nine-point halftime deficit and earn a 93-84 road win on Sunday. Senior DeMarcus Nelson had 19 of his 27 points in the second half while Gerald Henderson matched a career high with 23 points on 9-of-12 shooting.

"Our mind-set was that we weren't going to lose this game," Nelson said. "We were going to will the win, whatever it took."

Nelson sparked a Duke offense that has been clicking in ACC play, averaging 84.8 points and twice topping 90. The Blue Devils have been especially good at home this season, winning all nine games by an average of 29.7 points.

N.C. State (13-6, 2-3) has lost 10 in a row at Cameron Indoor Stadium, with its last win coming during the 1994-95 season. The Wolfpack had also lost four straight, seven of eight and 20 of 22 to Duke before the upset win in Tampa.

"We can't get too wrapped up in the fans," N.C. State coach Sidney Lowe told the school's official Web site. "Our guys really have to block that stuff out and really concentrate on our game and show some poise while we're over there."

The Wolfpack have twice beaten Duke while the Blue Devils were ranked in the top 5 in the last six seasons, including a 78-74 win over then-No. 1 Duke during the 2003-04 season, but both victories came in Raleigh.

The Wolfpack are just 2-4 on the road this season, but they're coming off a 69-66 win at Florida State on Saturday which snapped a seven-game losing streak in ACC road games.

"I've said we've been making progress in a number of areas," Lowe said. "Today was another example of that."

Freshman J.J. Hickson hit the winning free throws with 9.6 seconds left against the Seminoles, finishing with 12 points and 10 rebounds for his second straight double-double. The 6-foot-9 forward leads the Wolfpack with 15.3 points per game.

They may need a large contribution from Hickson, considering that the two major factors in last season's upset of Duke are either struggling or graduated.

Current sophomore Brandon Costner had 30 points against Duke, but was held scoreless against Florida State after being kept out of the starting lineup for the first time this season. Point guard Engin Atsur had 21 points last season, but graduated and is playing in Italy.

by: Staff Writers - Email Us

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