Surprisingly, juggernauts Duke and North Carolina were not picked to win the Atlantic Coast Conference at the beginning of the season. North Carolina State, playing with expectations reminiscent of the Jim Valvano era, was picked to win the ACC behind second-year coach Mark Gottfried.
BOX SCORE: No. 21 N.C. State 84, No. 1 Duke 76
VIDEO: Fan in wheelchair rushes the court with N.C. State students
Not as surprisingly, Duke got off to a hot start and became the No. 1 team in the country, starting ACC play once again as a favorite to win the league and leaving the upstart Wolfpack forgotten as contenders.
Gottfried's veteran N.C. State group reminded the country Saturday why the Wolfpack are a force to be reckoned with in the ACC and the country, upsetting top-ranked Duke 84-76 for its first loss of the season.
"I think we had lot of toughness, we rebounded the ball better in second half and defended them well," Gottfried said on ESPN after the game. "We went in last year, played well and didn't win. Our guys remembered that and accepted the challenge (Saturday)."
"I'm proud of them," Gottfried said of his players. "I hope they all enjoy it."
After the final buzzer and the win was finalized, N.C. State fans erupted into pandemonium and immediately rushed the court.
"I saw the whole court and I couldn't see a bit of court," said senior star C.J. Leslie, who paced the Wolfpack (14-2) with 25 points and six rebounds. "I couldn't see one part of the floor. It was just people everywhere. So that's going to be a remembrance that we'll never forget. We'll always keep this in our minds."
Senior forward Richard Howell plucked a whopping 18 rebounds to go with 16 points. Junior guard Lorenzo Brown contributed 12 points and dished out 13 assists. N.C. State started 3-0 in the ACC for the first time since 1989.
"They've got better chemistry right now," ESPN analyst Bruce Pearl said of N.C. State. "Too many weapons on this team."
Seth Curry led Duke with 22 points, while Mason Plumlee had 15 points and 11 rebounds.
"They played well," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "I thought we played our butts off. ... Our kids played with a lot of heart, their kids played with a lot of heart, and they were a little better than we were."
The Blue Devils played the final three-plus minutes without Curry, who crumpled to the court after slipping on a wet spot on the court. They were already without starting forward Ryan Kelly, who it out indefinitely with a foot injury and was on crutches on the Duke bench for this one.
With Duke's loss and No. 3 Arizona and No. 25 Wyoming's losses earlier in the week, No. 2 Michigan is the last undefeated team in the country.
Contributing: The Associated Press