And although the No. 5 Blue Devils (24-4) will be solid favorites, the 17-14 Wolfpack is playing very well at the moment.
State got through the first round on Thursday with a 74-71 revenge victory over Florida State that ended the Seminoles’ season.
Duke and ninth-seeded State met only once this season, with the Blue Devils rolling to an 83-59 win Jan. 8 at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
But nothing like that happens this time. The Wolfpack plays its best 40 minutes all season, shocking the Blue Devils 75-73 to mark the first time a team seeded below seventh in the tournament had beaten a top-seeded team in 33 tries.
State obviously comes out ready to play, leading for most of the first half. The period, which ends with Duke up 37-36, features eight ties and five lead changes.
Duke shoots 50 percent over the first period to 38.9 for the Wolfpack.
Chelsea Gray pours in 16 points before the break for Duke, while Bonae Holston leads State with 10.
The game has nine ties and 10 lead changes, the last of those when Myisha Goodwin-Coleman cans a 3-pointer to make it 64-62 with 6:12 to go.
An important sequence comes with 3:30 to go, when Elizabeth Williams hits a layup to cut State’s lead to 68-65 with 3:30 left and Marissa Kastanek responds with a 3-pointer out of the left corner six seconds later.
State’s biggest lead of the game is eight on two occasions, the last at 75-67 on a pair of Kastanek free throws with 2:03 showing.
Tricia Liston hits 3-pointers for Duke at 1:44 and 1:18, but misses a well-defended layup that could have tied the score with 20 seconds left.
State’s Emili Tasler misses two free throws with 16 seconds left, but when Gray misses the front end of a one-and-one with two seconds to go and the Wolfpack’s Bonae Holston rebounds the Wolfpack celebration begins.
Kastanek and Holston, playing in her final ACC Tournament, lead the Wolfpack with 16 points each while Goodwin-Coleman chips in 12.
Gray leads Duke with a career-high 25 points followed by Liston with 14, Williams with 12 and a tournament record seven blocked shots before fouling out at 2:54. Shay Selby finishes with 10 points in her final ACC Tournament game.
Duke shoots 47.1 percent to State’s 39.1 and ties the rebound battle at 40 apiece.
But the Blue Devils commit 22 turnovers to 15 for State, which goes 16-for-20 from the line to Duke’s uncharacteristic 9-for-19.
They said it …
NCSU coach Kellie Harper: “We’re excited! Our kids came into this game very focused and very motivated. I thought we executed well. We made big plays when we had to. I thought we started well, and down the stretch I thought our defense was just so tough. That is such a good (Duke) team, such a talented team with so many weapons. But again, I couldn’t be more proud of our team today. ”
Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie: “We just have to work hard and take the lesson, take every bit of the lesson. It’s been wonderful to be in Greensboro and stay and all of those things. But this is what happened, and now it’s up to us to take ownership of it and never forget it. We’re a young team, yes we are. But we’re a pretty seasoned team. We’ve played a lot of games. So I think it’s important for us to get some practice time in before we break out and get ready for next.”
Kastanek: “We came into the game knowing every team is beatable. And then what gave us our confidence is each other. We’ve learned a lot over these past couple of weeks that it’s not just me that can do it, and it’s not just ‘Bo’ and it’s not just ‘My.’ It’s all of us, and we need all of us together. And once we got that under control about two weeks ago we finally understood.”
Gray: “We were forcing things that weren’t necessary at times and trying to make the harder pass. I know personally, trying to make the harder pass than the easier pass to maybe the wings or something like that. But I just think we were forcing the issue instead of taking what came to us.”
What does it all mean?
That Duke may need some luck to get a good enough seed in the NCAA Tournament to be assigned to the Raleigh Regional. And that the Wolfpack’s dreams of a Cinderella ACC title remain alive.
Stars of the game
Play of the game
Kastanek’s 3-pointer with 3:24 left to make it 71-65.
Duke: Lost 1.
State: Won 2.
State leads 40-32.
State vs. Georgia Tech, Saturday, 11 a.m.
Duke in NCAA Tournament, site TBD.