Duke was never really in danger of losing to Wake Forest Tuesday night, but give Wake Forest credit for showing some character when they could have easily folded. But realistically, despite showing some real heart, that team was not good enough to beat this one.
Wake Forest had 21 turnovers. Flip that around though and consider that Duke, a team that has struggled on defense, forced 21 turnovers. As Grayson Allen said afterwards, “[w]e’ve still got our defense, we’ve got our rebounding on some nights and then we also have our offense. So on any given night, everything has to be there. Rebounding and offense wasn’t there ... but our defense was, and that’s got to be consistent.”
Wake did a great job on Marvin Bagley, holding him to just four points in the first half, but that was negated by the turnovers.
And to an extent the nice work Wake did on Bagley was also negated by a star turn by Wendell Carter who was just terrific.
Carter ended up with 23 points and 12 boards and shot 6-9 and 10-13 from the line. He also had two assists and two blocks and possibly put together his best all around game. He was superb.
So was Allen, who finished with 17 but more importantly played with immense toughness that spread to the rest of his team. Allen at times can be one of the most inspirational players Duke has seen in years and just as his diving play in the 2015 title game showed Duke the path to greatness, his willingness to hit the floor in this one helped crank his younger teammates to a much higher level.
Duke in general kicked its intensity to a much higher level. Even though Bagley struggled on offense in the first half, he had a couple of full court drives that were off the charts good. Gary Trent has emerged as what Coach K likes to call a certain 12-letter word. Trevon Duval had a poor game but he’s coming on overall.
Duke also got solid play from the bench, in particular Javin DeLaurier and Alex O’ Connell. O’ Connell had a nice spurt early when he stole the ball and drove 3⁄4 of the court for a dunk and also tossed in a nice jumper.
Wake never rolled over though and that’s great. It’s been years since the Deacs have been consistently good, probably not since the late Skip Prosser coached Wake Forest. Dino Gaudio did okay for a couple of years but even then things were inconsistent. The Jeff Bzdelik era ended up in fan rebellion.
So when Brandon Childress, son of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named started popping in late threes and Wake started surging, well, it really was too late but it wasn’t too late to get nervous. And it’s been awhile since Wake has even done that. We certainly didn’t want Duke to lose but we want Wake Forest to be good again. They kept showing the banners of Wake Forest greats and that program has had some immense talent: Childress’s dad, Muggsy Bogues, Josh Howard, Rod Griffin, Chris Paul and above everyone else, Tim Duncan.
Just as an aside, we found ourselves wondering if Duncan and Christian Laettner had played at the same time, how would they have handled each other?
It’s really interesting to consider isn’t it? Talk about fire and ice. We’d like to think Laettner would have conquered him too but that’s not nearly as easy.
In spite of their lost decade, it’s still not that easy to conquer Wake Forest. In one sense we don’t much like them - it’s a chippy program. They always play with an edge and at times it’s a bit nasty.
Yet in spite of that, we want Wake Forest to be good. We liked when Childress briefly put the Fear of Dad in Duke fans. We admired Doral Moore’s solid big man performance. We loved the fact that they were nearly in position to overcome 21 turnovers.
Wake, remember, wasn’t that far off from beating Virginia last time out. They’ve improved immensely since the disastrous start of the season.
And Duke? Well, the Blue Devils didn't play great and that’s okay. Because the Blue Devils took on the personality of Allen and they played tough.
There will be nights when Duke just rolls over people and there will, inevitably, be nights when they have to grind it out. The win over Wake was predicated on heart. Wake definitely showed some, but Duke showed more. That’s a great sign going forward.
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Deacons get turned over in loss to Duke
Hardin: Duke confounds Wake Forest — and itself
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Player of the game vs. Wake Forest
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Alex O’ Connell
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