Topranked Duke and sixth-ranked North Carolina State took turns playing basketball for 39 minutes 54 seconds tonight.
Finally, it came down to one play and it was the Blue Devils -- with a little luck -- who made it. Thus, they survived, 65-63, in spite of going 11:08 without a field goal late in the game. They will meet 14th-ranked North Carolina in Saturday's Big Four tournament final. North Carolina blasted Wake Forest, 73-55, in the opener tonight.
It was Eugene Banks, the brilliant sophomore forward, who made the winning basket that saved Duke with six seconds left to play, ending Duke's 11:08 field-goal drought. But -- according to State Coach Norman Sloan -- it was Jim Spanarkel who beat his team.
"Spanarkel made the tough play," Sloan said. "He made the pass. That pass made the game for them."
Spanarkel, who missed several layups earlier, took a pass from Bob Bender after Duke had held the ball for more than a minute.He drove into the lane and appeared to be open.
But as the State defense collapsed on him, he slipped the ball to the cutting Banks who made the easy layup. Clyde Austin's 35-foot shot at the buzzer was short and Duke, now 3-0, had survived. State is 3-1.
"There was no set play," Spanarkel said of the final basket. "We were in our passing game, just looking to get inside. I got a good pass from Bobby (Bender) and got into the middle. I was ready to shoot but I saw Gene open, so I got it to him."
Two loose balls helped set up the clincher. The first came with 1:25 left. State, which trailed virtually the entire game, had caught the Devils at 63-63 with six minutes left.
The Blue Devils, playing cautiously against the Wolfpack zone, held the ball one minute before Spanarkel missed a short push shot. Sloan then called time.
State wound the clock down to 1:30. Then Kenny Matthews, brilliant all night from outside with 18 points, was double teamed and overthrew Art Jones. Jones saved the ball but threw it right to Duke's Kenny Dennard.
"That was my fault," Sloan said. "We had not worked on that situation and we were a little disorganized with the ball. It was not a matter of a player making a mistake, it was Norm Sloan's fault."
Duke nearly lost its gift. Bender tried to force a pass inside to Spanarkel with 55 seconds left. The ball hit several hands and went out of bounds -- off State, officials said.
Duke held the ball until State came out of its zone and then it attacked the middle. "We were really letting their defense dictate what we did," Duke Bill Foster said. "We weren't looking for one man or one play. We played with confidence at the end, which is encouraging. But obviously we have to work a lot on our zone offense."
The frenetic finish of the first game was in direct contrast to the lackluster first game. Wake Forest started two freshmen, dropped behind, 14-4, in the first 10 minutes and lagged 44-18, at halftime.
The Tar Heels (2-0) used a full-court press to dismember Wake. Al Wood led North Carolina with 19 points and Dudley Bradley added 13. Only Frank Johnson, with 24 points, showed any effectiveness for the Deacons (1-1).
"I guess now that this is over we can all watch the main event," Carolina Coach Dean Smith joked, summing up the game best.
The main event left no one disappointed. Both teams came out running, especially Duke, which crashed the boards for an eventual 35-18 rebounding advantage, and jumped to a 21-12 lead with 12:23 left in the half, thanks to seven layups out of nine baskets.
But State, led by Matthews and Austin (21 points, 19 in the first half) bombed over the Duke zone, abandoned its press and scratched back to 46-45 at half.
Neither team led by more than three the second half.
"We survived," Foster said. "We were lucky and we know it. But we'll take it anyway we can get it." CAPTION: Picture, Shot by Gene Banks (20) hovers over basket before dropping through to give Duke 65-63 win. Ken Dennard (33) awaits verdict ., UPI