The clock had rolled down to 1:04 and North Carolina State's Hawkeye Whitney had tied the score at 53-53 with two foul shots.

Clearly it was time for Duke to hold for one shot.

But Edgene Banks and Jim Spanarkel had other ideas. "Gene gave me the eye," Spanarkel said. "I took off."

He grabbed Banks' length-of-the-court pass out of Tony Warren's hand and layed the ball in the basket for a 55-53 Duke lead as he was fouled.

Poked in the eye on the play, Spanarkel was replaced by Steve Gray, who made the free throw for a threepoint advantage.

And the Devils survived a frenetic final minute in which State twice closed to within one point, for a 62-59 win to move into Saturday's 8:30 p.m. Atlantic Coast Conference championship game against North Carolina.

"The long pass was Banks' idea," a relieved Duke Coach Bill Foster said after watching his team survive in the final seconds for a second straight day. "We tell them to look for it if it's there. I'm just glad it was there this time."

The three-player, three-point play was the only thing that separated two teams, who, in the words of State Coach Norman Sloan, "played an almost perfect game."

It was a chess match almost from the start. Duke already had beaten the Wolfpack three times this year and Sloan wanted a slow tempo.

He got it.

Zone defenses, lost of passes, few turnovers (six for State, three for Duke -- none in the second half) and excellent outside shooting.

Duke led by five points on several occasions and State led by two four times and one twice. But the margin never was wider than that.

In the end, Banks' pass, Spanarkel's layup and the foul shooting of Gray and Bob Bender in the last minute made the difference.

Bender hit four foul shots in the final minute after State had cut the margin to one opint. He finished with 16 points, Spanarkel 18.

"I remember during the Wake Forest game (Thursday), when Jimmy went to the line at the end. I was wishing that it was me up there," Bender said. "Tonight I felt confident shooting the ball and was glad to go to the line."

Bender left the game briefly with 2:07 to play after suffering a leg cramp. I was during his absence that his replacement, John Harrell, missed the first of his one-and-one free throws with the score 53-51. That set up Whitney's foul shots that tied the game.

"I thought we played great tonight," Whitney said. "We did a super job against a really good team. I feel really good about the way these guys (his teammates) have stuck together.

"Give them (Duke) credit though," he continued. "That long pass in that situation was a real gutty play."

"Terry Bradshaw eat your heart out," Banks first commented. "Jimmy and I always look for that pass. He made a great catch."

The game was a long way from over after the three-point play. Whitney, who shot eight for 14 playing with a sprained middle finger on his shooting hand, quickly made it 56-55 with a jump shot with 48 seconds left.

Bender was fouled immediately and made two. Then Clyde Austin, who had 16 points, hit a bank shot and it was 58-57 with 35 seconds left. Seven seconds later, Bender made two more free throws for another three-point lead.

Austin then traveled but Harrell missed a free throw and Austin scored again off a scramble with nine seconds left.

Banks went to his Bradshaw act again, hitting center Mike Gminski with one second left. The 6-foot-11 junior was fouled with one seond left, missed both shots but got the rebound and scored his 15th and 16th points at the buzzer.

"We gave it our best shot," Sloan said of his team, now 18-12 and hoping for an NIT bid. "I though both teams made every crucial shot and it seemed almost like every crucial free throw. They're a fine team, everyone knows that."

Duke (22-7) will face Carolina, with which it tied for the ACC regularseason title, in a grudge-match final. Both teams probably have wrapped up NCAA berths.

"I haven't really thought about them yet," said Foster. "We didn't exactly have an insurmountable lead with one second to go, you know.

"I think it will be a good game even if we are both still in the NCAA. It's still Duke and Carolina and that's a big game anytime."