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Duke regains the look of ACC title contender against NC State

By Chip Patterson | College Football/Basketball Writer

After a rough 2-2 start in ACC play, Duke finally regained the look of a team ready to contend for a ACC championship against NC State at home.

For the second straight game, Blue Devils head coach Mike Krzyzewski went deep into his bench, using the line-change-style substitutions. While some coaches opt to trim their rotation in conference play, Krzyzewski has used this barrage of athleticism and defensive pressure to energize this talented team.

Before these last two games, Duke's defense was a weakness; a reason to think the Blue Devils are beatable in March. On Saturday, when the defense forced 21 NC State turnovers that led to 33 points, the defense was a big reason why Coach K was able to clear the bench before the final horn.

Jabari Parker led Duke with 23 points and seven rebounds.  (USATSI)
Jabari Parker led Duke with 23 points and seven rebounds. (USATSI)

Jabari Parker contributed to that energy with an aggressive offensive showing, getting to the line (hitting 7 of 10) more than usual and adding three steals on the defensive end. He led the Blue Devils in scoring with 23 points, and Parker, like the rest of the team, looked more plugged in than they have been in any ACC game.

Duke faced a size disadvantage inside against NC State's bigs, particularly 7-foot-1 Jordan Vandenberg and emerging shot-blocker Beejay Anya. But with the defensive pressure extending full court at times, the Wolfpack struggled to get settled and take advantage.

The final result was settled with more than seven minutes left, giving Parker and the rest of the Duke starters a curtain call for the Cameron Indoor Stadium crowd; which included our country's 41st President.

There is still reason to favor Syracuse in the ACC, but this energized Duke team was able to overcome its size issues at the rim with full-court defensive pressure and getting points off turnovers. Saturday showed that the Blue Devils could still be a problem for the Orange in the Carrier Dome on Feb. 1.

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