NC State-Duke Preview
Anthony ''Cat'' Barber and Grayson Allen are set for one final duel between ACC scoring leaders.
The explosive guards from North Carolina State and No. 19 Duke figure to be part of an entertaining affair Wednesday in a conference tournament second-round matchup in Washington D.C.
Barber averaged 23.4 points in the regular season and Allen 21.5 as the only players in the conference to top 20. While the 6-foot-2 Barber was known more for his driving ability as he finished the regular season as one of the nation's leaders with 261 free throw attempts, the 6-5 Allen is the better 3-point shooter at 42.3 percent with a reputation as one of college basketball's best dunkers.
Allen wasn't always so proficient from long range, connecting at 34.6 percent on 3-pointers last season as a freshman when he averaged 4.4 points. He and Clemson's Jaron Blossomgame tied in coaches' voting for the conference's most improved player.
"In Grayson's case, I don't think there's anybody who's improved as much in the country," coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "No one's produced a 17-point differential than what they've scored before."
Duke (22-9) took both matchups this season over North Carolina State, ending its season-worst three-game slide by rallying from seven down at halftime for an 88-78 road victory Jan. 23. Allen scored 28 points and Barber had 19.
The teams met two weeks later in Durham and the Blue Devils won 88-80, as Allen outscored Barber 28-26.
Barber is looking forward to a rematch after helping the Wolfpack (16-16) advance past Wake Forest 75-72 on Tuesday. He started 2 of 11 from the field before making five of his final 10 shots for 22 points.
"It's great to play Duke again," Barber said. "We're looking forward to it. We're going to come out tomorrow and try to get this win."
Freshman Maverick Rowan made a season-high six 3-pointers and scored 24 points. Rowan credited Barber for setting screens to get him open, and Barber returned the compliments.
''Mav got great looks, and he was knocking them down,'' he said.
Rowan went 5 of 16 from beyond the arc in the two losses to the Blue Devils.
Duke is second in the ACC in 3-point shooting at 38.9 percent. The Blue Devils shot 45.3 percent on 3-pointers against the Wolfpack with 50 free-throw attempts.
These teams ranked third and fourth in the ACC regular season in average foul shot attempts with 24.1 for Duke and 24.0 for N.C. State.
''That's what we do - 3s and free throws are kind of how we have to score,'' Krzyzewski said. ''We've got to do what we have to do, and it's won 22 games, it's made us a very good and tough team.''
The Blue Devils also feature ACC freshman of the year Brandon Ingram, who is second on the team in scoring with 16.7 points per game and rebounding at 6.8. He has had to step up with senior forward Amile Jefferson out for the season with a foot injury.
Duke lost 76-72 at home to then-No. 8 North Carolina on Saturday to cap a three-game stretch in which it shot 37.1 percent. The Blue Devils were outrebounded 64-29.
The winner will face Notre Dame in Thursday's quarterfinals.