Hot first half helps NC State pull the upset over No. 6 Duke

Chase for the Championship

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Make that four out of the last five games that N.C. State has defended home court vs. the Duke Blue Devils.

Dating back to the first Duke-N.C. State game since the RBC Center became PNC Arena in 2011, the Blue Devils have lost by double-digits three times — with Wednesday’s contest being the third.

Fans rush the court after the Wolfpack romped Duke on Feb. 19, 2020.

The Wolfpack opened up a 15-point first-half lead to take to the lockers and didn’t let up. N.C. State would go up 25 points — Duke’s largest deficit of the season and won 88 to 66.

Coming off of the Boston College game in which he scored four points in a loss, Markell Johnson lit the nets up to a career-high of 28 points. Johnson would add 4 assists and 9 rebounds.

Never too far behind in the scoring category, Devon Daniels extended his streak of games in double-figures to eight. Daniels rattled off a career-high 29 points. He’s scored 20 or more points in two of the last three games.

Duke wouldn’t go away quietly, though.

Duke’s relentless leader Tre Jones provided his usual sparkplug energy on both ends of the floor. He would score 17 points while grabbing 9 rebounds. Big time freshman Vernon Carey Jr. was a beast again, notching his 13th double-double of the season, and fifth in the last seven games with 27 points and 12 rebounds. He’s put up 20 or better in four of the last seven contests.

Outside of Jones and Carey Jr., the offensive pickings were slim for Duke. No other Blue Devil player scored more than seven points.

Fayetteville’s own Manny Bates fouled out just before the 10-minute mark of half number two, but that just elevated the game of DJ Funderburk who scored 17 second-half points. Seven of those points came within a five-minute span. He finished with 21 points to go with his 9 rebounds.

Funderburk and Carey Jr. went tit for tat down the stretch, both grabbing important offensive rebounds, both rewarding themselves with points after said rebounds.

Once Duke made their run that cut the lead to 12 points, it became apparent that the Wolfpack were playing not to lose — taking ill-advised jump shots and missing easy ones. Between the 15 minute TV timeout and the 10-minute mark in the game, N.C. State was 1-of-9 from the field.

But Johnson and company made sure Duke wouldn’t complete a somewhat signature comeback fans are used to seeing. Down the stretch, the trio of Johnson, Daniels, and Funderburk sealed the deal.

Another factor? The random Kevin Hart heads, the huge bricks, the balloons, and most importantly, the yelling — yes, the free throw distractions. Duke managed to shoot a season-worst 10-of-22 from the charity stripe.

Duke will meet Virginia Tech on Saturday. The Blue Devils are still in position to win the ACC regular-season crown.

N.C. State will likely move into the top 25 following this win. Another top-10 victory could be in their sights as No. 8 Florida State will visit Raleigh on Saturday.

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