DURHAM – After a short wait, the high-scoring version of Jabari Parker made his Atlantic Coast Conference debut.
It didn’t hurt Duke’s cause that Parker’s teammates were in their best form of the year.
The standout freshman dropped in 23 points, four other Blue Devils scored in double digits and No. 23 Duke demolished N.C. State, 95-60, on Saturday at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
“Jabari really stepped forward (Saturday),” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “It’s a process of learning what you need to do at this level, where you need to be an attacker, and he was (Saturday). He was an outstanding player (Saturday).”
Parker was averaging 10 points per game – well below his season average – in ACC contests before Saturday but found the effectiveness that had been eluding him recently. Parker shot 7-for-14 from the field and made seven of his 10 free throws for Duke (14-4, 3-2), which led by double digits for the duration of the second half.
In addition to Parker, Andre Dawkins, Rodney Hood, Rasheed Sulaimon and Quinn Cook all scored at least 10 points for the Blue Devils, who shot 50 percent as a team and scored its second-highest points total of the season.
Parker said he used his first four ACC games to create a plan for himself Saturday.
“I think it was my preparation and just my experience from the last couple games,” Parker said. “I just had to be a little bit more prepared going in and avoid the scouting report on what they want me to do rather than what I have to do. And that’s what I did (Saturday).”
The Blue Devils received quite a bit of assistance from N.C. State (11-7, 1-4). Duke scored 33 points off N.C. State turnovers, punishing the Wolfpack for almost every one of its 21 throwaways.
By the mid-point of the second half, there was little doubting the final outcome.
“Those turnovers, a lot of them, were live turnovers, and they turned into high-percentage shots, whether they turned into open threes in transition or where we attacked the basket,” Krzyzewski said. “Just a really good performance by my team.”
Duke’s struggles in the early portion of the ACC schedule dropped the Blue Devils from the top 10 for the first time in seven years.
With back-to-back wins against teams it believed to be strong opponents, Duke thought it was beginning to find itself. On Saturday, Duke overwhelmed N.C. State with smart decisions and good defense, and that might become a formula.
“Those are plays that break teams, and our guys were able to do that,” Duke forward Amile Jefferson said of Duke’s hustle plays. “From our guards to our bigs, the five that were in to the five that came in when we hockey-subbed (replaced all five players on the floor), it was great.”
Krzyzewski said it was the best performance his team has had this season.
T.J. Warren scored 23 points for N.C. State, which fell into last place in the ACC with the loss.
Duke’s frequent subbing and constant movement on both ends took advantage of the Wolfpack, N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried said.
“I think you’ve got to give (Duke) credit. I think the way Mike used their depth and their pressure defense affected our inexperience and our short bench,” Gottfried said. “I thought that was probably the biggest thing.”
As Duke goes through the process of trying to contend for the conference title, some of its players said the mundane parts of the game might be key.
The Blue Devils said they want to play a game suited to them, and their play should look a lot like it did Saturday.
“At the beginning of the season, what we really worked on was pushing the tempo and pressing and getting a lot of possessions in the game,” Dawkins said. “We kind of started to get back to that. It’s a work in progress right now because we’ve been away from that for so long, but we’ve just got to keep working at it and we’ll keeping getting better at it.”
Nick Piotrowicz can be reached at 407-9952 or email@example.com