DURHAM, N.C. (AP)—It took a while, but Gerald Henderson and No. 2 Duke finally starting shooting well enough to impress even J.J. Redick.
Henderson scored 21 points and the Blue Devils shot 76 percent in the second half of their 73-56 victory over North Carolina State on Tuesday night.
Nolan Smith hit consecutive 3-pointers 30 seconds apart to start the decisive run for the Blue Devils (17-1, 4-0 Atlantic Coast Conference).
But it wasn’t until Henderson took the game over by hitting jumpers and driving the lane for authoritative dunks that his teammates started to find the seams in the Wolfpack’s defense. As a result, Duke’s athletic swingman finish with his fourth straight game with at least 19 points.
“(Henderson’s) play gave the team a big lift—when someone plays with that much assertiveness and confidence, it kinds of feeds down to the whole team,” forward Kyle Singler said. “Guys kind of get shots from that.”
With Redick—the Atlantic Coast Conference’s career scoring leader— watching from behind the Duke bench, Singler scored 14 of his 17 points in the second half and Smith finished with 13 to help the Blue Devils, who closed the game on a 27-5 run. Their 20-for-26 shooting matched the best performance in a second half in nearly three decades under coach Mike Krzyzewski.
“When we’re sharp and running our stuff and executing it … if we’re doing it sharp, we’re going to make shots,” Henderson said. “We’re going to get open shots and we have good enough players to knock them down.”
Brandon Costner and Ben McCauley both scored 15 points for the Wolfpack (10-6, 1-3), who led much of the game but hit just one field goal over the final 7:45.
“We were in it, and we couldn’t close it,” McCauley said. “We had them where we wanted them, and guys were playing tremendous basketball. … Unfortunately, guys that were in the end couldn’t come through.”
The Wolfpack’s cold spell helped Duke claim its 12th straight victory at Cameron Indoor Stadium over N.C. State, which hasn’t won inside the Blue Devils’ famously hostile arena since 1995.
“You can see how it lifts their spirits up,” Costner said. “It’s up to us as a visiting team to pick up our level of intensity and match it, and we didn’t.”
For a while, they had the streak in serious jeopardy—until Henderson, Smith and the rest of the Blue Devils heated up.
“That game just turned during the last 8 minutes,” Krzyzewski said.
The second of Smith’s two big 3s made it 52-49 with 9 1/2 minutes left, put Duke up to stay and started the game-ending burst in which the Blue Devils came away with points on eight straight possessions.
“I got two more good looks, and I took them with confidence, and I took them like I was J.J.,” Smith said.
Tracy Smith temporarily kept things tight when he hit the second of two layups with just under 8 minutes remaining—but the Wolfpack managed just one field goal the rest of the way in losing for the fourth time in five games.
“For a stretch in the second half, we played really good offense,” Henderson said. “But our defense is what drives us.”
Jon Scheyer’s 3-pointer from the right corner with 2:15 remaining gave Duke its first double-figure lead of the game, 67-56. That turned what had been a close game into another blowout. Nine of the Blue Devils’ 11 wins at home this season have come by double figures.
Duke shot nearly 51 percent overall and became the seventh team to make at least 40 percent of its shots against N.C. State—which fell to 2-5 in those games.
Duke’s hot second half was a stark contrast to the opening 20 minutes—for both teams.
“We were getting good shots,” Henderson said. “They just weren’t falling.”
The Wolfpack withstood one of their worst starts of the season—roughly 7 minutes elapsed before their first field goal—and took their first lead on McCauley’s left-handed layup over 7-footer Brian Zoubek with 3 1/2 minutes left.
N.C. State led 26-22 at halftime after holding the Blue Devils to less than 30 percent shooting. The Blue Devils trailed at the half for the third time this season—and for the teams’ third straight meeting—but rallied to send the Wolfpack to their 12th loss in 13 games against ACC teams dating to last season.
“Maybe they got an extra fire lit underneath them at halftime, and they came out and played well,” McCauley said. “Unfortunately, we didn’t make plays when we had to.”