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Paulus, Duke overcome another early deficit

Feb 1, 2008 - 7:04 AM DURHAM, North Carolina (Ticker) -- Once again, Duke found itself facing an early deficit and just like the first time, the Blue Devils found a way to overcome it.

Greg Paulus scored 22 points and the third-ranked Blue Devils remained perfect in Atlantic Coast Conference play with a 92-72 victory over North Carolina State on Thursday night.

On Sunday, the Blue Devils trailed Maryland at the half by nine points but stormed back after the break, outscoring the Terrapins, 51-33, in the second half to post the win.

"This was a tale of two different halves, obviously. They outplayed us in the first half and we outplayed them in the second half," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "We didn't play a very intelligent first half and they took advantage. Then our kids played a great second half."

Duke (18-1, 6-0 ACC) again trailed by nine at the break as Gavin Grant was 6-of-6 from the field and scored 16 points to help stake North Carolina State to a 46-37 lead.

But as they did on Sunday, the Blue Devils stormed back in the second half. Paulus hit a pair of 3-pointers just after the break and Duke went on to outscore NC State, 55-26, in the second half.

Freshman Kyle Singler scored 19 points and DeMarcus Nelson and Gerald Henderson added 18 for Duke, which extracted a small measure of revenge for its loss to NC State in the first round of last season's ACC tournament.

"We weren't contesting in the first half. We got outrebounded by like 10. We weren't playing smart also," Henderson said. "We just pulled ourselves together. We knew that the first half wasn't us. That's not how we've been playing all year. We just needed to get our heads on straight and start thinking about the game and start playing with some pride."

Grant finished with 26 points while Brandon Costner and freshman J.J. Hickson each added 14 for the Wolfpack (13-7, 2-4), who have lost 11 straight times at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

"It was a very tough ballgame but our guys came out in the first half and did a pretty nice job of answering the call," Wolfpack coach Sidney Lowe said. "I thought the second half they (Duke) came out and they kept the intensity up and their toughness both physically and mentally and we sort of broke down in some areas especially on the defensive end and against a team like this you can't do that."

Duke was just 11-of-24 (46 percent) from the field in the first half while making just 2-of-9 3-pointers. Grant was 6-of-6 and made all three of his 3-pointers.

In the second half, Duke got hot, hitting 21-of-32 (66 percent) from the field and 7-of-11 from the arc.

"You can't play too much better than we did in the second half," Krzyzewski said. "We were down to 10 in rebounding in the first half and then we ended up outrebounding them. Our 3-point shooting was sensational in the second half, but it's because we really shared the ball. There were some really beautiful connecting plays. We played so well in the second half and I thought we were deserving of the win."

Paulus hit consecutive 3-pointers to give Duke a 52-51 lead just under four minutes into the second half. Duke's lead reached double digits at 67-56 four minutes later on a dunk by Nelson.

"Getting that lead after being down nine, it gave us more momentum and we just tried to keep building from that lead once we got it," Paulus said. "They're a really good team. When they do what they did the first half, they can beat anybody in the country. They did a great job of controlling tempo. They're big and physical inside and hit some outside shots. They're a really good team, and that's what happens in this league if you don't show up to play."

The Wolfpack shot 50 percent from the field in the second half but took only 18 shots and had nine turnovers and were outrebounded, 19-7.

"They scored 55 points in that second half and we have to be solid all the way around for 40 minutes against a team like this," Lowe said.