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Miracle In Joel

Luke Kennard really pulled it out for Duke.

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NCAA Basketball: Duke at Wake Forest
Jan 28, 2017; Winston-Salem, NC, USA; Duke Blue Devils guard Luke Kennard (5) celebrates with guard Grayson Allen (3) after hitting the go ahead three point shot in the final 7 seconds against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons at Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Duke defeated Wake 85-83
Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Wake Forest had this game in the bag but Duke came back and managed to snatch it away in the closing seconds behind a brilliant second half by Luke Kennard.

Honestly, after a dispiriting first half, we weren’t sure Duke deserved to win it. Wake was playing better and did play better for most of the game.

But Duke had Luke and Luke wasn’t going to let Duke lose.

Despite horrible defense for most of the game, despite huge foul trouble, despite Wake’s attempting to bait Grayson Allen into doing something stupid (twice - Allen got a technical the first time and walked away the second), Kennard played brilliantly in the second half and helped Duke come back for the 85-83 win.

Wake was up 10 points with 4:01 left.

Kennard hit a three with 3:47 left to cut it to seven. He hit a two with 2:46 left. He hit a three with 1:49 left to cut it to four.

Allen hit a three with :55 left and then Kennard hit the winning shot with :07.

Keyshawn Woods hit Wake’s last points, a two point jumper, with 2:11 left.

As bad as Duke’s defense was early, it was really solid in the closing minutes.

It was a wonderful comeback and it was great to see the team excited and happy. Kennard shot 11-14 for the game and hit all 10 shots after the break.

There are still issues though.

Wake had several shots which were uncontested. On one, Bryant Crawford (we think) was so open for so long near the corner that he seemed startled and hit the side of the backboard. John Collins had at least two uncontested dunks, including one where no one seemed to realize that he had gotten behind the defense at all.

And there was one drive in the first half that was possibly the worst defense we’ve seen Duke put on a drive since Robert Traylor drove the lane in Cameron to put a game with Michigan into overtime.

You can’t really blame people for getting the hell out of the way - he weighed about 350 - but it was horrible defense.

No one for Wake is that big. The lane opened like the Red Sea for Moses. No one attended it.

The upshot? Duke won, and Duke played well enough down the stretch to earn it, but you can’t say that Duke was the better team for 40 minutes.

And for Wake Forest, the struggle to close out games continues. A team with a ten point lead under 5:00 should really be able to engineer a win.

That’ll come in time. The Deacons are really, really young still and losses like this will both dispirit them and toughen them up.

As for Duke?

It got the win. The gritty play down the stretch earned the win. But it was far from a perfect game and Duke still has a lot of work to do.

Grayson Allen still got unwanted attention, first for shushing the crowd with his finger to his lips, then a technical for an altercation with a Deac and finally a dust-up at the bench during which he put his hands up and wisely retreated.

Mike Gminski suggested that Allen has been playing tentatively since the media firestorm cranked back up and that may be a smart observation.

Harry Giles continues to improve. Almost every game now we see something from him that we haven’t seen before.

Antonio Vrankovic came off the bench and did more than just fill in. He scored a nifty basket then was alert defensively. He did get four fouls in six minutes, but during those six minutes, he frustrated Wake’s John Collins a good deal. As we’ve said before, he’s a smart player. His body just needs to mature to be really effective but he’s clearly made progress. Think of other guys who took some time like Brian Zoubek and Marshall Plumlee. That’s his trendline.

Anyway you look at it a win is a win is a win. Duke moves to 4-4 in the ACC and 16-5 overall. After the game the players all spoke of how they felt they came together and accomplished something more than a win.

On to Notre Dame Monday!

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