NC State fights Duke for spot in ACC title game

The Sports NetworkMarch 15, 2014 

Greensboro, NC (SportsNetwork.com) - The third-seeded Duke Blue Devils and seventh-seeded NC State Wolfpack will square off in the ACC Tournament's semifinals on Saturday afternoon at Greensboro Coliseum.

The winner of this game will take on either Virginia or Pittsburgh in Sunday's championship game.

Duke was in the hunt for the regular-season crown for much of the season, but couldn't catch the consistent Virginia Cavaliers or the Syracuse Orange, settling for a third-place finish (tied with North Carolina). Mike Krzyzewski's Blue Devils are certainly no stranger to successful runs in this event. The all-time winningest program in ACC Tournament history, Duke earned its 92nd tourney victory on Friday, albeit in heart-stopping fashion with a 63-62 win over Clemson. The Blue Devils have won an ACC record 19 tournament titles.

Mark Gottfried's Wolfpack needed back-to-back wins to close out the regular season just to finish at .500 in the ACC (9-9). NC State used that momentum and the benefit of a first-round bye to post two straight wins in the ACC Tournament thus far, knocking off defending ACC champion Miami in Thursday's second round (67-58), then upending second-seed Syracuse in Friday's quarterfinals (66-63). NC State has amassed 10 ACC tourney titles, but the last came in 1987.

Duke routed NC State in Durham on Jan. 18, 95-60. With the win, Duke improved to 141-98 all-time against NC State.

ACC Player of the Year T.J. Warren has carried his torrid pace from the regular-season into the postseason. After scoring 24 points in the win over Miami, Warren upped that, going 9-of-21 from the floor and 10-of-12 from the free-throw line to tally a game-high 28 points in the win over Syracuse. Warren was joined in double figures by Jordan Vandenberg, who posted 10 points for the Wolfpack, who shot .460 from the field and took advantage of the Orange's lack of efficiency (.327).

Scoring wasn't really a problem for the Wolfpack this season (71.2 ppg on .458 shooting). Of course, it helps to have one of the nation's most explosive scorers in Warren, who finished the regular-season fourth nationally at 24.8 ppg. Ralston Turner was a distant second in the scoring column for NC State at 10.0 ppg.

Duke almost let one slip away in the quarterfinals against Clemson, as a 13- point second-half lead all but evaporated down the stretch, with the Tigers getting a last possession to win the game at the buzzer, but instead, turned the ball over. All-ACC First-Teamer Jabari Parker led three Blue Devils in double figures, with 18 points. Rodney Hood was a close second with 17 points, while Rasheed Sulaimon chipped in with 14. Duke shot an uncharacteristically poor 40 percent from the floor, while Clemson shot an impressive 51 percent overall.

Offense wasn't a problem for Duke in the regular season, as the team led the ACC in scoring (79.8 ppg), 3-point field-goal percentage (.393) and 3-pointers made (9.2 per game). The ACC Freshman of the Year, Parker lived up to all the hype he brought to Durham, as he finished second in the ACC in scoring (19.2 ppg) and first in rebounding (9.0 rpg), en route to All-ACC First-Team honors. Fellow forward Rodney Hood is the team's resident sniper leading to a regular- season average of 16.5 ppg (ninth in the ACC), earning Second-Team honors.

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