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January 18, 2006The final margin was 13 points, but Duke's 81-68 victory over North Carolina State was a barnburner until the last minute at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
The Blue Devils move to 17-0 with the victory, equaling the school record set by the 1991-92 national championship squad for best start to a season. However, toppling the Wolfpack was no easy task.
In fact, the victory can be traced to one pair of plays.
With just under five minutes to go, Lee Melchionni took a cross court pass from J.J. Redick, found a seam to get into the lane and kicked it to Sean Dockery, who buried a three pointer from the wing and got fouled by NC State guard Tony Bethel.
After a timeout by Wolfpack coach Herb Sendek, Dockery toed the line to try to make it a four point play. He came up woefully short, barely hitting the front of the rim.
The hard carom off the rim came back to Dockery, who followed his shot. Dockery dribbled back to the perimeter, then reversed course back into the lane.
His move into the paint caused Ilian Evtimov to leave Melchionni open at the top of the key. Dockery zipped it to his fellow senior, who swished a three pointer to put NC State in a six point hole it couldn't escape.
The Wolfpack couldn't draw within closer than four after that huge shift of momentum.
Going into the game, most observers would have thought NC State wouldn't compete if they only hit two shots from three point range.
Despite going 2-of-11 from behind the arch, the Wolfpack more than held their own on the road before a deafening crowd at Cameron.
Duke, again playing without DeMarcus Nelson, had trouble defensively, as the Wolfpack was able to score in the paint almost at will for much of the game. The Devils did lock down on D late, holding NC State without a field goal in the final six minutes.
Cedric Simmons had a career night for the Wolfpack, pouring in 28 points on 11-of-18 shooting. The sophomore post outplayed Shelden Williams for much of the evening, but Williams made his presence well known in crunch time.
The Landlord knocked down four free throws, caused a steal with a deflection, drew an offensive foul from Simmons more than 30 feet away from basket, blocked a shot, and pulled down a key defensive rebound...all in the final 3:14.
Though quiet for much of the game, Redick still finished with an impressive stat line. The ACC's leading scorer pumped in another 28, keyed by four baskets from long range. He also calmed talk of a free throw shooting slump by sinking a perfect 10-of-10 from the charity stripe.
Though the Blue Devils gave up 52 percent field goal shooting, they did force the Wolfpack into more turnovers than they are accustomed to. Duke netted 28 points from NC State's 17 turnovers, while the Devils registered 19 assists to only 10 turnovers.
In addition to Redick's 28 points and Williams' 21, Duke also got double figures from its other two senior captains. Dockery had 10 points while Melchionni contributed 12, thanks to four shots from three point land.
By moving to 17-0, attention will continue to be focused on a potential undefeated season. Duke will not face a team currently ranked in the top 30 of the RPI until a road trip to Maryland, which is preceded by a visit to Chapel Hill to square off with North Carolina.