Miah Spencer scored a game-high 23 points and three rebounds to lead a Wolfpack offense that finished with four double-digit scorers.
A double-double performance from Jennifer Mathurin (13 points, 12 rebounds), Dominique Wilson’s 18 points and three rebounds, and Len’Nique Brown’s 12 points, three rebounds, and six assists all helped to beat Duke.
Led by Spencer’s 3-for-3 performance beyond the arc, N.C. State used a 48-percent conversion rate, finishing 12-of-25 from that distance, to beat a Blue Devils team that struggled to make easy baskets while turning the ball over 18 times.
Elizabeth Williams posted 19 points and eight rebounds, while Azura Stevens’ double-double (13 points, 10 rebounds) and Rebecca Greenwell’s 16 points, four rebounds and three assists led Duke (19-8, 10-4).
But it wasn’t enough.
It seemed that the Wolfpack (16-11, 7-7) carried the momentum of a comeback 68-65 victory over Miami on Thursday into the game, whereas Duke hadn’t recovered from a 63-50 loss to No. 4 Notre Dame last Monday.
Though the Blue Devils shot better at 39 percent compared to the Wolfpack’s 33 percent, and outrebounded a smaller squad 50-33, they gave away too many opportunities throughout the game.
N.C. State capitalized on their forced possessions and scored 28 points, the most Duke has allowed off turnovers this season.
It ended up being the “perfect storm” as Wolfpack head coach Wes Moore described it.
All part of a special day for N.C. State and its fans as it played the annual Hoops for Hope game in honor of late coach Kay Yow, whose name adorns the hardwood floor the team plays on.
“I thought it was a great basketball game,” Duke head coach Joanne P. McCallie said.
“I thought the environment was absolutely incredible, and I wish it could be that way every game, every place we play. I think Kay Yow would have been so proud today.”
The Wolfpack came out firing as Spencer dropped a three-pointer which was followed up by a short jumper from Carlee Shuhmacher who finished with six points and five rebounds.
N.C. State took a quick 5-2 lead within the first two minutes of play.
After scoring its opening basket, Duke went 0-for-5 and Spencer’s second three put the Wolfpack further ahead, 8-4.
The Blue Devils only needed a minute to regroup before posting five points to grab their first lead, 9-8.
Stevens dropped her first basket of the game and extended the Blue Devils’ margin to 15-12 with 12:31 to play in the half.
Both sides continued to score as Wilson’s three was countered by a jumper from Williams.
Two blocked shots by Duke’s defense kept the ball out of the basket, but N.C. State played through it and trailed by one.
Duke soon hit a lapse in converting easy baskets and Mathurin hit a three to give N.C. State its first lead of the game, 23-21, with six minutes to play.
While the Blue Devils turned the ball over five times and missed five shot attempts, Wilson continued the Wolfpack’s 8-0 run and extended the lead to five points.
Kendall Cooper scored her lone points of the game and finally ended Duke’s slide with a layup which Ka’lia Johnson (9 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists) followed up on with a jumper.
With the Blue Devils looking to retake the lead, Spencer’s jumper kept N.C. State’s margin to three points.
She added to it with a last-second three and the lead stood at 31-25 by halftime.
“We honestly just didn’t finish shots,” Williams said.
“I mean we missed…I can’t even tell you, how many layups in the first half. We got a lot of the looks that we wanted, but we just didn’t convert.”
After going scoreless beyond the arc for its previous three halves of play over two games, Johnson scored a three for Duke early in the second half to cut the N.C. State lead to three.
Spencer matched it with a drive to the basket through Johnson and also scored the ensuing free throw on the and-1.
Greenwell then dropped her first 3-pointer in two games and Duke trailed 34-31.
Williams regained the lead for the Blue Devils from the free throw line and in the paint, the prime scoring area where Duke scored 32 of its points from throughout the game.
Mathurin launched her second long ball of the game and quickly pulled N.C. State back ahead 37-35.
Three consecutive 3’s from the Wolfpack – one from Brown and two from Wilson – really put the Blue Devils’ backs to the wall.
N.C. State held an 11-point lead.
The Blue Devils then put together a five-point run and pulled to within four points, trailing 46-42 with 10 minutes to play.
Struggling from the free throw line, Stevens finally found her stroke and kept Duke’s offense churning as part of a 7-2 run.
Even though still leading by four with 7:30 to play, N.C. State hit a dry spell and went scoreless for a two-minute stretch.
Brown ended that with an easy layup inside and at the other end, the pressure to score with the shot clock counting down caused Duke to take a poor shot.
It only increased the Blue Devils’ urgency to overcome an increasing deficit against an energetic N.C. State team that was not slowing down with its crowd behind it.
“We knew we needed to shoot the ball well today and do a good job of contesting on defense,” N.C. State head coach Wes Moore said.
“We had several people hittin’ three’s. Defensively, we had to mix it up a little bit.”
Another jumper from Spencer pushed the Wolfpack lead back up to eight points, leading 52-44 with five minutes to play.
Mathurin then launched and converted her third 3-pointer of the game and Duke faced another 11-point deficit.
Continued missed shots and turnovers plagued the Blue Devils and their lack of hustle to pick up N.C. State’s misses off the glass showed that it was wearing on them.
After Johnson fouled out with 3:28 to play, Greenwell’s three brought Duke closer, but a foul call as Spencer put up a three-point attempt helped the Wolfpack to keep putting points on the board.
Williams scored on the Blue Devils’ next possession, but still trailed by 10 after she fouled Wilson.
It then became a free-throw shooting contest as N.C. State led 60-52 with 1:25 to play.
Spencer, then Mathurin made extra baskets to keep the Blue Devils far enough away.
“I felt like we all stuck together and executed the things we needed to execute to get the win,” Spencer said.
Greenwell attempted a shot by the three-point line, but Nelson got a hand on it.
Brown scored two more from the line and even while Stevens scored, more free throws from Spencer increased the margin of victory for the Wolfpack.
“Basically, the game’s very simple,” McCallie said.
“They shot 48-percent from the three-point line, 33-percent from inside the arc, and we didn’t do much to stop that…I thought we played in spurts, and that’s certainly not good enough in our league, to play in spurts. So they took full advantage.”
With the Wolfpack’s biggest signature win of the season complete, the students in attendance thought it was worthy of taking to the floor to celebrate alongside the team.
“They gave us all we could handle,” Moore said of Duke.
“They’ve got a great team. I know they’ll bounce back and get goin’ again, but a great win for our program, for our team. We’ll enjoy it for a day or so and get ready for the next one.”