Wake Forest Escapes a Late Duke Rally, Takes Out No. 1
Name the last team to beat both No. 1 North Carolina and No. 1 Duke in the same month.
You need to go all the way back to January of 2009 when Dino Gaudio's Wake Forest squad did it.
There's no such thing as a "good loss," but the Blue Devils can't take the bus ride back to Durham with their heads hanging too low. Despite Duke's comeback when Wake went cold at the end, nobody was going to beat them on their home floor Wednesday night. Not even Virginia Tech (wait, what?).
Though Jeff Teague and the Demon Deacons' offense was shaky at times, their defense never wavered in the 70-68 win.
Each team played a suffocating man-to-man early. It was evident from the start—Wake had the superior defense. There weren't many open looks for Duke in the opening minutes, and Wake's open looks were few and far between—but at least they got a few.
The Demon Deacons (17-1, 4-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) weren't converting from long range early, so Duke didn't have to extend its defense. Jon Scheyer and Greg Paulus each hit a trey to open things up a little.
The Blue Devils (18-2, 5-1) were crashing the offensive glass early—it didn't mean they're bigger (because they absolutely aren't), it just meant they came out with enthusiasm and were making a point to send three or four guys in on each shot because of their size deficiency. They were getting great positioning under the rim.
Foul trouble for both teams early gave them a chance to showcase their depth, and each team did just that.
Duke was able to hold Jeff Teague at bay, in the first half. Unlike Stephen Curry, E'twaun Moore, and other star players the Blue Devils have faced, Teague still found a way to hurt Duke without the ball, thus creating opportunities to make plays with the ball.
Who knew how big his acrobatic three-pointer with a few seconds left in the first half would end up being?
Wake wasn't perfect—non-Teague guards had a lot of trouble converting open looks from long range—but they were really, really good.
The Demon Deacons' size and length made the paint impenetrable, which proved to be Duke's Achilles' tendon. Unable to put the ball on the floor to get to the foul line or open up looks from three-point range spelled disaster for Coach K and company.
Early in the second half, Wake perpetually pounded the ball inside, dumping it off to a big man who would finish the job.
When Wake went cold a little more than halfway through the second half, Duke couldn't capitalize. A seven-point margin stayed a seven-point margin for way too long. The Blue Devils were finally effective on defense again, but would bring the ball down the court in transition and settle for a stupid shot.
Duke wasn't cold from long range, Wake just didn't give them many open looks. The Blue Devils finished 4-for-22 on three-point attempts, and shot 33.3 percent (22-for-66) from the field overall.
The main reason for the loss can be attributed to lack of athletes to play with Wake Forest. It was the Gerald Henderson and Kyle Singler show on offense. Henderson finished with 20 points, eight boards, and seven turnovers. Singler went for 22 points (on a Luke Harangody-like 7-of-19 from the field), 12 rebounds, and four turnovers.
Duke caught up on free throws toward the end of the game, going 20-for-24 as a team. Jon Scheyer was a perfect 8-for-8 and Singler made all six of his attempts.
Wake Forest only turned the ball over 11 times (to Duke's 15), and registered nine blocks on defense, to further exemplify the Blue Devils' troubles in the paint.
The scoring was a little more balanced for the Demon Deacons. Al-Farouq Aminu had 15 points and 10 rebounds, James Johnson (not to be confused with Jimmy Johnson or Jimmy Johnson) contributed 13 points and 11 boards, and Teague had 11 points in what might be considered a sub-par game.
Numbers-wise, perhaps it was. But if you watched the game, you know better. I didn't want to buy in to Teague until I saw him play my team, and I'm officially impressed. Put me on the bandwagon (Blake Griffin is still National Player of the Year, but Teague at least deserves to be in the discussion at least as much as Harangody).
Wake Forest was the recipient of 18 points from the bench, where as Duke only had seven.
Duke's next opponent is the University of Virginia on Thursday, at Cameron Indoor. Whatever the line is, take Duke and the over.
Wake travels to Georgia Tech on Wednesday to face a struggling Yellow Jackets team.
Now that every ACC team has a conference loss, things are really going to start heating up. No game is a gimme. Take T.O.'s advice. Getcha popcorn ready.
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