As the seconds ticked down on the Wolfpack's biggest win in years, ESPN's Dick Vitale posed one of the few questions that still remained about this team at midseason: Do they rush the court?
Most of the other unknowns surrounding NC State going into this game had been emphatically answered: Could the Wolfpack, picked to finish first in the ACC for the first time in nearly four decades, take advantage of their home floor and a hobbled opponent and finally deliver a performance worthy of that expectation? Could preseason ACC Player of the Year C.J. Leslie show a little killer instinct and take over a game? Could emerging senior star Richard Howell continue his string of eye-catching performances?
Yes, yes and yes.
Leslie, a 6-foot-9 forward who leads the team with 16.2 points a game, scored 25 points, including six straight during a crucial second-half stretch. Howell, a rebound hound whose team-leading 10.4 rebounds a game include 3.4 O-boards, had 16 points and 18 rebounds, including six off the offensive glass. And they weren't the only 'Pack players with huge games: junior guard Lorenzo Brown had 12 points and 13 assists while senior forward Scott Wood had 14 points, including three three-pointers. Together the four of them went 8-for-8 from the free throw line in the final 40 seconds.
The Blue Devils felt the absence of second-leading scorer Ryan Kelly, who went out with a foot injury earlier this week. Seth Curry kept the game close by delivering 22 points, including-back-to-back three-pointers that cut the 'Pack's lead to 58-57 with about 10 minutes to go. But once
The 'Pack's upset victory, its 10th straight win after buzz-killing November losses to Oklahoma State and Michigan, gave NC State its first 3-0 ACC start since 1989. More than that, it gave NC State and its fans a rare trifecta of satisfaction. They vanquished a previously undefeated team, that happened to be the No. 1 team in the country, that happened to be hated Duke. Hell yes, they rushed the court.