DURHAM, N.C., FEB. 6 -- There are some things in college basketball that simply cannot be explained. The rivalry between North Carolina State and Duke is one of them.

Since N.C. State Coach Jim Valvano and Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski arrived at their schools eight years ago, each has had a good deal of success. Their records are very similar. But whenever their teams get together, regardless of record or ranking, the result is almost always the same: N.C. State finds a way to win.

Today was another example, the Wolfpack coming from 14 points down in the second half to stun the fourth-ranked Blue Devils, 77-74, before 8,564 in Cameron Indoor Stadium. N.C. State (14-4, 5-2 in the Atlantic Coast Conference) used a 14-0 run to climb back into the game and a late burst by Vinny Del Negro to win it.

"It was just a terrific college basketball game," said Valvano, who is 5-3 in this building. "Except for the last 4:50 of the first half {when Duke built a 43-32 lead}, I thought we played very well. Buildings don't matter, players do. Duke is tough to play anywhere. They're tough because of {Danny} Ferry, {Kevin} Strickland and Mike {Krzyzewski}, not because of some kid from New Jersey sitting behind me calling me a jerk."

For N.C. State, though, the Blue Devils aren't that tough. Today, Del Negro, who committed four fouls before he scored his first points with 15:13 left in the game, hit a soft 10-foot jumper to put the Wolfpack up for good, 73-72, with 1:50 to play. Then, after John Smith bobbled Ferry's pass and lost it out of bounds, Del Negro made a gorgous back-door cut, caught Chris Corchiani's lob and banked it home for a 75-72 lead. Smith cut the lead to 75-74 with 35 seconds left, but then Duke took 28 seconds to foul Del Negro.

To most everyone's surprise, Del Negro missed the free throw. Ferry rebounded and spotted Phil Henderson open at the other end. "I saw Phil and I tried to throw a one-handed pass because I didn't think I could reach him with two," Ferry said. "It probably wasn't a very smart play. I felt the ball slip in my hands and it never went anywhere."

It went right to the Wolfpack's Chucky Brown, who was about 15 feet from Ferry. He quickly passed to Del Negro, who was intentionally fouled with two seconds left. Del Negro iced the game for N.C. State with two free throws.

"The last pass doesn't bother me," said Krzyzewski, who is 6-11 against Valvano since coming to Duke. "What bothers me is the way we got in that position, needing to go the length of the court with seven seconds left. It shouldn't have happened. We just weren't mentally sharp today and I'm not sure why."

For 29 minutes, Duke (15-3, 5-2) had the game just where it wanted. The Blue Devils led, 59-45, with 10:44 to go on Ferry's lean-in jumper and 61-48 with 10:07 left. But during the next 4:17, the Wolfpack got 14 straight points to a 62-61 lead, using a triangle-and-two defense that denied the ball to Ferry and Strickland, Duke's best shooters.

"We just gave it away, that's all there is to it," said Ferry, who led all scorers with 21 points, only two of them during the last 10 minutes. "During the last 10 minutes, we played not to lose instead of to win. They made a great run, but it shouldn't have happened."

It happened because N.C. State got a great game from two freshman guards, Corchiani and Rodney Monroe. Monroe had 17 points, most of them at crucial moments, and Corchiani had 15 points and four assists. Charles Shackleford had 16 points and Del Negro, with his late burst, finished with 12.

By contrast, Duke didn't supply Ferry with enough help. Strickland finished with nine points -- his first game out of double figures all season -- and the only other Blue Devil in double figures was Smith with 13. But he shot three of 11 and had the ball stripped inside at least five times.

In the end, though, N.C. State won this game because it exploited Duke's weakness: half-court offense. The Blue Devils count on their defense to give them easy baskets. Down the stretch they didn't get any. Their walk-up offense produced 32 percent shooting the second half (eight of 25) compared with State's 62.5 (15 of 24).

"We just played stupid basketball," said King, whose defense gave Del Negro fits until the last five minutes. "There's no excuse for giving this game away and that's just what we did."

After N.C. State took the lead on two Shackleford free throws with 6:01 to go, the teams traded baskets. Greg Koubek hit what looked like a key three-pointer to give Duke a 70-67 lead with 3:55 left, but Brian Howard answered immediately. Then Smith was stripped in the middle by Shackleford and Del Negro's layup gave the Wolfpack a 71-70 lead with 2:37 left. Strickland's only basket of the second half put Duke ahead one last time before Del Negro took over the last two minutes.

"I didn't worry or get frustrated when I wasn't scoring," he said. "I just tried to rebound {seven} and get assists {six} and wait until I had the shots. At the end, I had them."

And made them.