Duke might be rounding into form at just the right time, but the final week of the regular season will include a couple of challenging tilts against in-state neighbors.
The first of those comes with Tuesday night’s visit by North Carolina State to Durham, N.C.
The Blue Devils will be waiting with a four-game winning streak — matching their best string of the season — and newfound confidence.
“I give these guys a lot of credit because they haven’t pointed the finger and they continue to work,” coach Jon Scheyer said. “Each of them has gotten better.”
It’s the home finale for the Blue Devils (21-8, 12-6 Atlantic Coast Conference), who are undefeated in 15 games on their home court. Scheyer has set the program record for the most wins by a first-year coach.
“It’s great being at home, just having the crowd on your side, especially for us being a young team,” freshman forward Mark Mitchell said. “It’s really good to have people helping you and pushing you (to) get to the finish line.”
This marks the regular-season finale for NC State (22-8, 12-7), which is coming off its worst performance of the season in Saturday’s 96-71 home loss to Clemson.
“We have had a great year,” Wolfpack coach Kevin Keatts said. “If I didn’t declare we were going to win a national championship after we played well early this year, too, I am never going to declare that the season is over.”
NC State hasn’t lost consecutive games this season, and it will have to make a strong recovery to avoid that. On the plus side for the Wolfpack, one of the team’s best games came in an 84-60 home thrashing of Duke on Jan. 4.
“I feel like they’re a different team now,” NC State guard Jarkel Joiner said. “I feel like they’re better. I feel like we’re better as well. If we come in and do what we can do we can get a win.”
The Blue Devils are coming off what Scheyer referred to as one of the best start-to-finish outings of the season Saturday night, when they avenged a Jan. 23 loss to Virginia Tech with an 81-65 win. Now they hope to do the same against the Wolfpack.
Kyle Filipowski leads Duke in scoring (14.9 ppg) and rebounding (8.9). Terquavion Smith paces NC State with 17.6 points, 4.4 assists and 1.6 steals per game.
–Field Level Media