Teams set for rematch with plenty at stake

Now Duke has some work to do, too.

The Blue Devils take on North Carolina State on Monday night in a rematch of a surprising result less than two weeks ago.

More recently, Duke has lost back-to-back games.

It was less than a week ago when the Blue Devils held what would have been the top seed for the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament.

Now, they’ve fallen to the fourth spot. That can all change again during the final week of the regular season.

Duke lost in double overtime to Wake Forest before Saturday night’s 52-50 loss at Virginia.

“As you go forward you would think that you will be in similar games and you hope that you would make one play more and advance,” Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski said.

Duke, which has its second two-game skid of the season, is in the mix for the top four spots in the ACC along with Louisville, Florida State and Virginia.

“I think this is a key period for us (to) find out who we really are,” Duke guard Tre Jones said. “This is the most adversity we’ve been through all year, so (we’re) trying to get through this and find out who we really are, continue to battle, continue to fight every single game and we know that if we keep fighting like we did (against Virginia) everything will work itself out.”

While Duke’s potential for high seeds in the conference tournament and NCAA Tournament might be at stake, N.C. State is trying to build its case for inclusion in the NCAA Tournament.

It’s a topic that coach Kevin Keatts understands is out there. He said he’s not sure how much to emphasize it with his team.

“I’m always wondering if I tell them how important it is or if I say that it’s just another game and we need to win it,” Keatts said. “It’s a fine line trying to figure out what to tell them.”

When N.C. State blasted Duke by 88-66 on Feb. 19, it marked the most lopsided loss to an unranked team in Krzyzewski’s 40 seasons with the Blue Devils.

Since the Wolfpack defeated Duke, N.C State lost to Florida State and North Carolina before rallying down the stretch to defeat Pittsburgh on Saturday.

N.C. State, which closes the regular season Friday night against visiting Wake Forest, will have three games in a seven-day stretch. This encounter with Duke is part of the Wolfpack’s third Saturday-to-Monday turnaround of the ACC schedule.

“Those are the toughest ones,” said Keatts, whose team won at Virginia and lost at home to North Carolina in the back ends of the previous two such situations. “That’s a good (Duke) team on their home floor. They’re really good. They’re one of the best teams in the country and for the NCAA they’ll be a 1 or a 2 seed team so it’s a challenge.”

Duke plays its last two games of the regular season at home, with Saturday night’s clash with North Carolina still on the docket.

Duke freshman center Vernon Carey Jr. said the Blue Devils need to stay the course and not be distracted by recent results.

“Just play hard the whole game and just listen to Coach as we prepare for these next two games,” Carey said.

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Tip-off

Who: N.C. State (18-11, 9-9) at No. 7 Duke (23-6, 13-5)

When: 7 p.m. Monday (ESPN)

Where: Cameron Indoor Stadium, Durham

Series: Duke leads 147-102, though N.C. State won 88-66 on Feb. 19 in Raleigh