If we really thought hard about it, we might be able to find a time when we
were prouder of a Duke team, but we'd have to work at that. Wake Forest
won the game, but Duke won everything else, and you could tell that by the look
you saw in the eyes of Wake's players. They saw a championship-caliber
team tonight at the end of this game, and after the way the rest of the game
went, they were not nearly prepared for that.
Dick Vitale and Mike Patrick started burying Duke early in the second half,
or at least Patrick did, suggesting that foul trouble was working against
Duke, and certainly Wake was playing well and was in position to pull
away. When Daniel Ewing fouled out, it seemed almost certain that they'd
win, and possibly win big.
But a funny thing happened. Duke got a number of stops, and Wake went
wobbly. And instead of a 12 point lead turning into an 18 point lead, Duke
Wake still had an eight point lead with 1:58 to go when Sean Dockery hit a
three. J.J. Redick made another one 52 seconds later. Eric Williams hit a
basket with 35 seconds left, then Redick hit a layup. After that, Chris Paul hit
two free throws, Melchionni hit another three with 10 seconds left, and then
Taron Downey hit two free throws to put Wake over the top.
What must he have been thinking after being in the same situation he was in
in the Florida State game? He wasn't about to pull another stunt, not
after having it backfire, and he hit his free throws.
Even then, though, Redick almost hit a miracle three with two seconds
left. When ESPN showed it in slow-motion replay, you could tell he
expected it to go in.
People have been hyping Redick as the best shooter in years, and maybe the
best shooter ever. He's going to have to earn that, and that would mean passing
guys like Larry Bird and Jerry West, but he is one of the best to come along in
years, and perhaps the best shooter Duke has ever seen. He's passed Trajan
Langdon now, and perhaps only Bob Verga was as good as Redick has turned out to
be. We didn't see him play, but we have heard enough to know he was in the
same basic class.
ESPN has an article up saying that at 16-2, Duke looks a lot different than
they did at 15-0. We're not sure we the reverse isn't true. The
Maryland game was a tough matchup for Duke, and Duke didn't play well, but what
Duke did in this game is what Duke has done all season, which is to deal with
adversity as well as perhaps any team ever has.
Whether you talk about playing without Reggie Love and Dave McClure, Daniel
Ewing's fouling out, or overcoming a much deeper Wake team even as Redick and
Dockery tweaked ankles and Shavlik Randolph continues to recover from mono, they
found a way to compete, and very nearly defeat, one of the truly superior teams
in the country.
We'd rather have the win than a simple dose of pride in the extraordinary
show of hear, but all things considered, if anyone had told us last March that
Duke would a) lose Luol Deng, b) lose Sean Livingston, c) lose Shavlik Randolph
to mono, d) get Reggie Love back as a key player and then lose him, and d) lose
Dave McClure, and still almost beat Wake at Wake, we'd have said you were
But here they are. They lost this game, but they know what they can do
now. And so does everyone else.