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March 8, 2007

NC State knocks Duke out of ACC Tourney

Box Score

TAMPA, Fla. -Duke's reign as kingpins of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament is over.

Freshman Brandon Costner scored a career-high 30 points and Engin Atsur scored all 21 of his points after halftime, helping 10th-seeded North Carolina State defeat the defending tourney champions 85-80 in overtime Thursday night.

No. 21 Duke (22-10) had won seven of the previous eight ACC tournament titles, including the past two, but entered the league's signature event this year as the seventh seed, the Blue Devils' lowest since 1995.

North Carolina State (16-14) avenged a 23-point regular-season loss to Duke and beat its nearby rival for just the third time in the past 23 meetings between the schools. The Wolfpack advanced to Friday's quarterfinals against No. 2 seed Virginia.

Greg Paulus led Duke with 18 points and Josh McRoberts and DeMarcus Nelson both scored 17. The Blue Devils fell behind 73-70 on Costner's three-point play in the opening minute of overtime and never fully recovered.

Duke played without freshman Gerald Henderson, who served a mandatory one-game suspension for a flagrant foul that broke Tyler Hansbrough's nose during the closing seconds of a loss to North Carolina last Sunday.

North Carolina State rallied from a 60-54 deficit in regulation and had four shots to win in the final 10 seconds. But Costner misfired on a short jumper in the lane, then Atsur and Courtney Fells missed 3-pointers before Atsur's desperation tip flew over the rim at the buzzer.

Costner got the Wolfpack off to a quick start in the extra period, and North Carolina State led 82-76 after Atsur, who was scoreless in the first half on 0-for-4 shooting, made a pair of free throws with 43.4 seconds left.

Martynas Pocius converted a 3-point play to give Duke hope, but the closest the Blue Devils got after that was 83-80. Costner made two free throws to close out the third straight upset in the opening round of the tournament.

This was a rare first-day appearance for Duke, which entered with its lowest seeding since a ninth-place finish 12 years ago. Thursday night's loss stopped a six-game winning streak in the ACC tournament, however the Blue Devils still have won 23 of their last 25 in the league's showcase event.

Henderson, who has said he was not trying to hurt Hansbrough, watched from the stands at the St. Pete Times Forum. Although the 6-foot-8 freshman averages only 6.8 points, he was most effective as a scorer in his past two games, with 15 against Maryland and a career-high 16 against North Carolina.

Duke led 34-29 at the half, with Pocius and Jon Scheyer going 5-for-5 on 3-pointers and combining for 19 points. The Blue Devils took charge with an 11-0 spurt, but the Wolfpack refused to go away.

Atsur led North Carolina State's comeback, almost single-handedly keeping the Wolfpack in the game until Costner, who had 16 in the first half, and Ben McCauley asserted themselves inside.

Atsur made four 3-pointers. Costner sank 10 of 17 shots, and McCauley was 7-for-8 and finished with 15 points.

Duke made 6 of 11 3-pointers in the opening half, but was just 3-for-12 from behind the arc after that.

Pocius and Scheyer finished with 14 points apiece.

For more coverage of the Duke Blue Devils, check out DevilsIllustrated.com; for more on the NC State Wolpack, check out TheWolpacker.com.



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