Duke's Frank Jackson, right, and North Carolina State's Maverick Rowan chase the ball during the first half of Monday's game in Cameron Indoor Stadium. The Wolfpack won in Durham for the first time since 1995 in a 84-82 victory. AP
By Rob McLamb
Special to the Times
There was a jubilant celebration at the Belltower and on Hillsborough Street Monday evening. N.C. State head coach Mark Gottfried already had his mind on the next task before his team got home from its special win.
The Wolfpack rallied to stun No. 18 Duke 84-82 in Cameron Indoor Stadium, where they hadn’t won in 22 years. N.C. State (14-7, 3-5) was coming off a puzzling homestand where the Pack lost two-of-three games.
It was a thrilling evening for Gottfried and his team. The veteran head coach picked up his 400th career victory as star freshman point guard Dennis Smith Jr. scored a career-high 32 points along with a combined 33 points and 19 rebounds from Abdul-Malik Abu and Ted Kapita.
Gottfried also got to celebrate the win with his family, as four of his children and his father attended the game. Once he boarded the bus, his mind began racing towards the next challenge.
Two seasons ago, an upset win over North Carolina in Chapel Hill also led to bedlam on Hillsborough Street. In the following game, N.C. State traveled to Boston College and was defeated with ease.
It is a lesson that Gottfried remembers well. N.C. State swung by the Belltower on the way back to campus to see the celebration. Unlike two seasons ago, the Wolfpack just watched from the comfort of the team bus and did not participate.
“We felt it was appropriate to go by but we (just) did a drive-by,” Gottfried said during Thursday’s media availability. “I thought it was important for our guys to enjoy it for a minute, but quickly, I think, you have got to get your team and your mindset on to the next game.
“I know a lot of people were excited and our players were but our focus has got to shift on to Louisville pretty quick.”
The Wolfpack will travel to Louisville to take on the No. 13 Cardinals on Sunday at 1 p.m. in the KFC Yum! Center. The game will be broadcast on the ACC Network.
Gottfried also concedes that moving on from a big win is not always easy.
“I got on the bus after the game and I had 163 text messages I think it was,” Gottfried said. “That number kept growing. I know our players, the same thing is happening with those guys. All of that is great. We earned a good win on the road but it is my job, the staff’s job and our players’ job to make sure we are now focused on Louisville.”
Abu was a freshman in 2015 when N.C. State kickstarted its season with a Valentine’s Day victory at Louisville. The Wolfpack would ultimately reach the Sweet Sixteen for the second time in four seasons, falling to the Cardinals in Syracuse.
While the road win over a talented Louisville squad gives Abu some confidence for the matchup Sunday, he also realizes things have changed since then.
“It gives me a certain confidence level,” Abu said. “A lot of the new guys have never been there but I know what it takes at that stage to win there with the crowd and a good team like that. It was a great experience.”
The win at Louisville two seasons ago was not judged simply by what N.C. State did that day. The progress of the Wolfpack afterwards is what told the tale. Gottfried knows if his team does not continue to grow in a tough conference environment, the win at Duke will lose meaning as time goes by.
“We have got to be able to build on it,” Gottfried said. “We have got to be able to win two in a row. We have dug ourselves a hole and we have to find a way to get out of it. That starts Sunday.”
In women’s basketball, the Wolfpack is currently ranked 18th in the nation, its best national ranking since 2014. N.C. State recently secured a verbal commitment from Elissa Cunane of Northern Guilford. The 6-foot-2 junior is ranked as the No. 9 post player among the class of 2018 by ESPN.com. She also held offers from North Carolina, South Carolina, Wake Forest, Georgia and Virginia Tech.
The Wolfpack will next travel to Chapel Hill to take on UNC in a Sunday afternoon affair at Carmichael Arena.
N.C. State’s baseball team, which will begin the campaign ranked No. 6 in the country by D1 Baseball, is holding its first official practice Friday afternoon at Doak FIeld. The Wolfpack will look to reach the postseason for the seventh time in eight years and are coming off a 38-22 season in 2016.
State was knocked out of the NCAA tournament in 2016 by eventual national champion Coastal Carolina. The Pack was eliminated after being one strike away from progressing to the Super Regionals.
In other action, the No. 24 N.C. State gymnastics team will host No. 9 Southern Utah Friday at 7 p.m. inside Reynolds Coliseum. The third-ranked Swim/Dive team has duals against North Carolina Friday at 7 p.m. and No. 5 Virginia Saturday at 4 p.m. inside the Casey Aquatic Center.
The No. 9 N.C. State’s wrestling team will take to the road over the weekend. The Wolfpack square off against Virginia in Charlottesville Sunday at 1 p.m.
Rob McLamb has covered NC State Athletics and recruiting for Pack Pride (Scout.com) since 2012. You can follow him on Twitter @RobMcLamb.