Sidney Lowe, in the optimistic bloom of October

CAMERON INDOOR STADIUM/ DURHAM—You had to feel bad for N.C. State head coach Sidney Lowe Saturday night in Durham: Only a minute into his embattled squad’s second game against Duke this season, Lowe was off the bench, yelling to his players, trying to direct their defense. The Pack had dropped three in a row. Tracy Smith, his leading scorer, had a bad knee and looked bedraggled on the court. Forward C.J. Leslie was suspended for the game for violating team rules. Talk of Lowe’s termination at N.C State—and speculation about his replacement—was rampant. And he was playing the No. 5 team in the nation, in one of the toughest environments in college athletics. On the other side of the scorer’s table, Mike Krzyzewski and his Duke squad sat still and poised, generating 52 points in the first half.

“I’m disappointed in our starts the last four games, but I’m not going to say it’s rock bottom,” Lowe said after the 76—52 loss. “There’s still a lot to play for.”

The Wolfpack actually played as though that were true in the second half. They outscored the Devils by five, with the Devils shooting just 20 percent from the floor and making only one three-pointer. The Pack turned the ball over less, too. Duke’s Kyle Singler made only one shot during the second half after scoring 10 points in the first; Nolan Smith missed all seven of his attempts. The Devils took quick shots and played without the cross-court intensity that had given them such a jolt in the first half. Still, they left the court with a comfortable win, their 21st this year.

“It’s difficult [to main that intensity in the second half],” said Krzyzewski. “But It wasn’t us not playing as well as much as I thought they played well. Good thing we had a 29-point cushion.”