Duke upsets No. 6 NC State at home. Three takeaways from the in-state rivalry game

Most people probably didn’t have a ranked N.C. State women’s team losing by 11 to unranked Duke — even if the game did take place at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

No. 6 N.C. State (23-5, 11-5 ACC) lost to Duke (18-9, 10-6), 69-58, on Sunday after the Blue Devils controlled the game from start to finish.

Duke started efficiently on both ends of the floor, scoring 11 points on 5 of 8 shooting, and holding N.C. State to two points in the first 5:57. Much of the Blue Devils’ offensive success came from its defensive efforts, forcing four turnovers and scoring four points off the miscues.

Ashlon Jackson hit a 3-pointer from the left wing — over Madison Hayes — as the shot clock expired and gave Duke all the momentum going into halftime. The Devils led 35-19 going into the break and extended that to 22 points with 5:29 left in the third.

The Wolfpack rallied in the second half, scoring 39 points after the break, including 21 in the fourth. But the comeback effort was too little, too late.

Aziaha James led the Wolfpack with 15 points, scoring 11 in the second half. River Baldwin added her fifth double-double of the season after scoring 14 points and 10 rebounds. Duke’s Taina Mair led all scorers with 20 points.

This was a better defensive performance than N.C. State has put together in its last two games. It wasn’t enough, though.

Here are three takeaways from the in-town matchup.

Duke’s movement disrupts on both ends

The Blue Devils led the entire game thanks to its shifty movement on offense and defense, throwing N.C. State out of its own rhythm.

On defense, Duke switched constantly, players always guarded with their arms up and weren’t afraid to make plays on the ball. It forced eight first-half N.C. State turnovers and scored eight points from them, pushing the pace and scoring easy buckets in transition.

The offensive end was similar. The Blue Devils never seemed to stop moving, even off the ball. That forced the Wolfpack to play at Duke’s tempo and rhythm, instead of N.C. State imposing its will on defense.

Duke’s ability to shift positions on the floor and speed up its opponent has proved deadly. The Blue Devils might not be the highest scoring team, but its ability to beat teams with sheer effort continues to carry the young squad.

River Baldwin buoys Wolfpack

In a game where few things went right, Baldwin — who played 36 minutes, including three full quarters — was a bright spot for the Wolfpack. The graduate center led the team in scoring for most of the game and was the first N.C. State player to reach double figures five minutes into the second half.

Her scoring wasn’t the only boost Baldwin provided for the Pack. She pulled down nine rebounds — often fighting through traffic — set screens for her teammates and took a charge on defense. Baldwin added on-court leadership, gathering the team after Duke earned an and-1 opportunity with 2:02 left in the game.

Baldwin is not the offensive scoring threat James, Hayes and Rivers often are, but her presence on the floor kept the Wolfpack from a complete collapse. And, when it lost by 11 points after being down 22, that’s saying something.

Duke maintains composure

The Blue Devils took the first lead of the game and they never looked back — even when the Wolfpack tried to come back late in the third and fourth quarter.

In fact, a 9-0 run and 6-0 run didn’t rattle Kara Lawson’s team. Was she mad when her group gave up two straight 3s from James? Oh, yeah. Then, Duke came out of the timeout and scored on two straight possessions of its own.

It says a lot about a team to respond the way it has in the last several weeks, especially after losing by double digits to this same N.C. State team, Louisville and Clemson.