Top-ranked Duke sounded a little like a team running on empty Saturday as the pressure to not only win, but be impressive doing it, mounts.
"I know this is wearing on me right now," Chris Carrawell said following his team's 83-68 victory over North Carolina State in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament semifinals. "I am just exhausted."
"With all the hype we have, 31-1 now, people expect so much from us, and we expect so much from ourselves. We were up by eight at halftime and we felt like it wasn't enough."
And the nation's No. 1 team will have to muster enough energy to win its first ACC crown since 1992 without Trajan Langdon, who missed the game against the Wolfpack with a foot injury and was declared out of the title game by coach Mike Krzyzewski.
"Right now, this team is hurting," said Krzyzewski, whose defensive stopper -- Shane Battier -- is nursing a sore left ankle. "I am pleased that over the last week that we have still played so well."
"This is part of the game, you get some injuries and you get worn out a little bit. Everybody has gone through that in the league -- some people have had it a lot worse."
Freshman Corey Maggette, making his first start in place of the injured Langdon, scored 17 of his season-high 24 points in the first half.
"Corey scored and he scored some more," Carrawell said. "He really played a great offensive game as far as putting points on the board. For him to step up was big-time for us. We needed it."
The Blue Devils (31-1) extended the nation's longest winning streak to 26 in beating the Wolfpack (18-13) for the 10th time in their last 11 meetings.
Maggette's previous high was 22 points against North Carolina-Greensboro. Elton Brand added 19 points after a slow start.
"I just wanted to step iand help out the team any way I could," said Maggette, 8-for-10 from the field and 6-for-8 from the foul line.
"His role didn't really change today," Krzyzewski said. "I am confident about playing Corey. Corey has been a great player for us all year long."
| Trajan Langdon liked what he saw, even if he saw it from Duke's bench. (AP)|
N.C. State coach Herb Sendek just shook his head when asked about Maggette's offensive outburst.
"All roads for them seem to lead to the same destination," he said. "They have an excellent team with great depth, with any number of men who can hurt you."
Anthony Grundy led the Wolfpack with a season-high 19 points.
Langdon, the team's second-leading scorer with 17.1 points per game, missed his first start in 131 games because of a sprained left foot sustained in a 104-67 first-round win Thursday against Virginia. And Duke missed him early when its offense wasn't clicking.
But Maggette picked up the pace, and Will Avery and Nate James sank 3-pointers in a 12-0 run that put the Blue Devils up by 11 points midway through the first half.
Five minutes later, Krzyzewski lost his temper and was assessed a technical foul after arguing a charging call against Avery. The coach ran on the court, yelling and pointing his finger at official Karl Hess.
A pair of free throws by Justin Gainey cut the Duke margin to five points. But Maggette scored on a fast-break three-point play, and Shane Battier followed with a 3-pointer that put the Blue Devils ahead by 11.
The Wolfpack were 6-for-10 from 3-point range in the opening 20 minutes, including three by Grundy. Gainey's 3-pointer at the halftime buzzer made it 43-35.
N.C. State upset No. 1 seed Duke two years ago in the ACC quarterfinals, but there would be no repeat of a clutch second half by the Wolfpack.
Duke, playing with a day's rest because of a second-round bye, just broke down N.C. State, scoring on 12 straight second-half possessions to turn a 53-45 score into a 23-point edge with 10:20 left.
"Their tremendous inside attack wore on us," Sendek admitted. "They obviously had a real purpose and went inside time and time again. That took a toll on us."
The Blue Devils scored on three dunks and two layups during a two-minute, 10-0 run that sealed the win, sending Duke back to the ACC title game for the second straight year.
"Duke's scoring and greatness starts with their defense, and if you can't handle the ball, it just leads to breakaway layups that you can't possibly defend," said Sendek, hose team had 21 turnovers.
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