Previewing Duke v. NC State

Previewing Duke v. NC State

The Blue Devils and Wolfpack will tip off on Saturday afternoon in Greensboro in the ACC semifinals

Duke has already avoided a scare in the ACC tournament.

North Carolina State, however, is looking to pull off another upset.

The seventh-ranked Blue Devils are looking to make things a lot easier on themselves as they try to continue their success against the upset-minded Wolfpack in Saturday's semifinal.

Duke (25-7) may be the third seed at the conference tournament, but it needed a pair of free throws from Rodney Hood with 3.8 seconds left to beat No. 6 Clemson 63-62 on Friday. The Blue Devils blew a 13-point, second-half lead before avoiding the same fate that befell No. 15 North Carolina and 11th-ranked Syracuse earlier in the day.

"We would've lost that game a month ago, I think," said Hood, who had 17 points despite going 5 for 13 from the floor against the Tigers.

Now, Duke has a chance to return to the ACC title game for the first time since winning it in 2011, and a meeting with the Wolfpack (20-12) seems to be rather favorable.

The Blue Devils have won 12 of the past 15 meetings with North Carolina State, including a 95-60 victory on Jan. 18.

The Wolfpack, though, enter this meeting with a four-game winning streak after stunning the second-seeded Orange 66-63 in the biggest upset of the tournament so far. They've now reached the conference semifinals in three straight years under coach Mark Gottfried, but they haven't reached the final since falling to North Carolina in 2007 as a seventh seed -- a run that started with a first-round upset of Duke in the last ACC tournament meeting between the teams.

"We came to Greensboro thinking about one thing, and that's to play on Sunday," Gottfried said. "That's our goal, was to play on Sunday and win on Sunday. And, you know, (Friday) was just the next step, so our eyes were there more than anything. I hope that we have the greatest chance to play in the greatest show on earth."

T.J. Warren will likely have a big say in NC State pulling off another upset. The sophomore forward had 28 points and eight rebounds against Syracuse, and he's averaging 33.8 points on 57.1 percent shooting over the past four games.

Warren did his part against Duke on Jan. 18, scoring 23 points, but no one else had more than eight.

Ralston Turner mustered just four points in that meeting, but he's totaled 31 in the Wolfpack's two tournament wins while sinking 10 of 19 from the field -- 8 for 15 from long range. Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski isn't surprised with NC State's success or Warren's recent production.

"I'm not surprised at NC State," he said. "NC State is playing great basketball, and Mark's got his team at a real high level of belief. Warren is playing lights-out basketball. I mean, he's had a great year, but the last few weeks, last couple of weeks, you know, phenomenal is not exaggerating. He's been unbelievable, and he never seems to get tired."

Krzyzewski has his own impressive underclassman in Jabari Parker, the ACC rookie of the year and Duke's top scorer at 19.2 points per game.

The forward scored 18 points Friday, but he had 23 with three steals against the Wolfpack earlier this season.

Rasheed Sulaimon chipped in with 13 points and six assists, and he scored 14 points versus Clemson

The winner of this game will meet either top-seeded Virginia or No. 5 Pittsburgh in Sunday's championship contest.

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