Coach K back, No. 8 Duke rolls inside to beat NC State

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Duke center Mark Williams (15) blocks North Carolina State forward Ebenezer Dowuona (21) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Durham, N.C., Saturday, Jan. 15, 2022. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

DURHAM, N.C. – Mark Williams had 19 points, 11 rebounds and eight blocks as No. 8 Duke dominated inside to beat North Carolina State 88-73 Saturday with Hall of Fame coach Mike Krzyzewski back on the sideline after missing a game due to illness.

Paolo Banchero had a team-high 21 points to help the Blue Devils win for the third time in four games since returning from a COVID-19 outbreak. The Blue Devils (14-2, 4-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) shot a season-best 58.3% and had complete control of the paint behind Williams, a 7-foot-1 sophomore.

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The Wolfpack had been vulnerable since losing defensive-minded big man Manny Bates to an opening-night injury, and Williams thrived by shooting 9 for 12 from the field. That included him finishing around the rim multiple times through whistles — at least once having him screaming in exuberance toward the baseline fans — as undersized Wolfpack defenders flailed desperately to stop him.

Banchero had plenty of good looks of his own with his 6-foot-10 frame inside. Behind that duo, Duke finished with a season-high 58 points in the paint.

Freshman Terquavion Smith scored 19 points for N.C. State (9-9, 2-5), which shot 41%. The Wolfpack had won seven of the last eight ACC road games dating to last year, including a 16-point win Wednesday at Louisville. but the Blue Devils stretched out the lead shortly before halftime then scored on their first three second-half possessions to push the margin past double figures.

Duke took its biggest lead at 64-45 on Joey Baker's 3-pointer with 10:59 left. N.C. State thrice got as close as nine, only to see Duke respond with a score on the ensuing possession each time to stay in control.

Krzyzewski, who is retiring after the season, didn't coach in Wednesday's win at instate league foe Wake Forest due to what the school described as a non-COVID-related illness. Associate head coach Jon Scheyer, designated as Coach K's successor, led the team in that one and expressed optimism that the 74-year-old would be back for this one.

Krzyzewski was, and look like his usual self right away when he sprung up to animatedly object to an out-of-bounds call on a turnover less than 2 minutes in.


N.C. State: Bates' injury significantly altered the Wolfpack's formula for success by taking away a strong rebounder and relentless shot-blocker. Games like this, facing a team with size and the willingness to feed the ball inside, exploit that weakness. It didn't help, too, that, 6-9 freshman Ernest Ross was out for this one with an ankle injury.

Duke: Banchero and surging fellow freshman A.J. Griffin have commanded the most attention of late for the Blue Devils, but Williams came through with a reminder of the impact he can have when Duke needs to work the paint. He showed that upside earlier this year in a win against Gonzaga (17 points, six blocks) then surpassed both totals with a new season-high scoring output and a new career-high in blocked shots.


N.C. State: Virginia Tech visits the Wolfpack on Wednesday.

Duke: The Blue Devils travel to Florida State on Tuesday.


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