Saturday night, the NC State Wolfpack pulled off a stunning upset over #2 Duke at home. This surprising win came on the heels of two blowout losses on the road for the Pack. The 85-96 loss leaves Duke at 1-2 in conference play and winless on the road.
This game opened a lot of eyes, especially since it was nationally televised. Here are the five biggest takeaways that came from NC State’s victory over Duke.
Duke’s depth issues are real
Another thing we saw on Saturday night was the Duke’s bench is incredibly short. Just six Duke players played more than 5 minutes in the game. The Blue Devil bench accumulated a total of 4 points, 2 rebounds, and no assists. That was all just from one player, by the way. Duke’s bench got outscored 4-25 by NC State’s 3-man bench.
Javin DeLaurier is the only consistent contributor that Duke has off the bench. This was a major issue in the preseason, and it has seemed to rear its head again now. In three ACC games this season, Duke’s bench has a total of 17 points. If this continues, Duke could be in for another disappointing finish in March.
NC State’s Lavar Batts Jr. is a star in the making
NC State freshman guard Lavar Batts Jr has had an up-and-down year so far. He has played more than 20 minutes in a game as many times as he has played less than 12 minutes. This inconsistent playing time has made it hard for Batts to get into a rhythm. Though, in most of his time on the court, he has shown flashes of being a tremendous defender while also having elite attacking prowess with playmaking abilities.
Saturday night on the biggest stage he has seen yet, he put all of it together. Batts posted career highs in both assists and rebounds. The box score doesn’t show it all, it rarely does for him, but he did everything he needed to do- and more. Batts only played 19 minutes but was incredibly impactful. He was dynamic off pick and rolls, setting his teammates up well with a plethora of terrific passes. He showed off his vision as well as his ability to finish at the rim. Being able to show up on the biggest stages and do the little things is a perfect foundation for an uber-athletic guard who is 16 games into his college career.
Omer Yurtseven is legit
NC State’s sophomore big man has had a rocky college career. He came in as a very heralded 5-star recruit. The hype was compounded after he scored 91 points in an international U-18 game. He had a very disappointing freshman year under former coach Mark Gottfried, and many were already labeling him a bust.
This season, though, he has turned things around in a major way. Yurtseven is shooting more, shooting better from deep and inside, rebounding better, defending much better, and has almost doubled his scoring per game. He looks like a brand new player. Saturday night against Duke was a culmination of his terrific turnaround. Yurtseven went for 16 points and 9 rebounds in 29 minutes against Duke’s elite frontcourt. He was the key to keeping Bagley and Carter off the offensive glass. Most of all, he showed legitimate toughness and rim protection.
The talent was always clear with Yurtseven, and the win over Duke was his message that he is a legitimate talent.
Duke’s youth is showing
The Blue Devils have an incredibly young team this year. Four of their five starters are freshmen, and one of their more important role players, Alex O’Connell is also a freshman. While they have immense talent, their inexperience has been a big hindrance in ACC play so far. Duke only played one true road game in non-conference play, and it was a struggle victory over a mediocre Indiana squad.
Now in conference play, Duke has played two road ACC games and lost them both. While it’s all fine and dandy that they can win against good teams like Florida State at home, they will have to get good wins on the road if they want to be taken seriously as a contender. They have a good chance to get a resounding road win this week against a struggling Pitt team.
Marvin Bagley is unstoppable
The one player that causes opposing coaches to have sleepless nights is Marvin Bagley III. That’s how its been all year. Even in the loss to NC State, the Duke freshman could not be stopped. It wasn’t due to bad defense either. Omer Yurtseven did a fine job of boxing him out and altering his shots when he guarded him, but often times it just was not enough. Bagley still scored. When the smaller- but incredibly athletic- Abdul-Malik Abu was guarding him, Bagley had his way.
The Duke freshman finished with 31 points and 10 rebounds on 78.5% shooting. Bagley also drew plenty of fouls, some of which were highly questionable, but he certainly made his trips to the line count. He shot 9-11 from the charity stripe to cap off an efficient night.
We still aren’t quite sure what his NBA game will be, we do know that Bagley is an incredible force in the college game. Duke’s success will have to come off the back of Marvin Bagley.