Wide A-Wake: Deacons in the Hunt for a Tournament Berth

Jared RebackAnalyst IFebruary 17, 2008

Some games are worth more than one win in the standings. There are some nights that fans of a team will remember forever.

It was such a night in Winston-Salem after Wake Forest upset Duke 86-73. The thrilling upset left Deacon fans delirious, and the team all alone in fifth place in the hotly-contested ACC race.

Shortly after the game ended, the Fox Sports broadcast showed the Wake Forest faithful rushing the court, then cut to the banner hanging above the court bearing the name and image of Skip Prosser. Coach Prosser's message for the team this season was "One Team, One Fight," and the team followed that message tonight.

The Deacons, who struggled early in conference play, seem to be peaking at the right time, and are doing so behind corps of young budding stars who play with confidence and without fear.

Freshmen James Johnson and Jeff Teague combined to drop half a hundred against the favored Blue Devils. Johnson added 16 rebounds, and abused any Duke defender that dared to get in his way.

On the defensive end, Wake pressured Duke in the half-court game, perhaps conceding more open lay-ups then they would have liked, but preventing Duke from getting in a rhythm from long range.  

The win should give the Demon Deacons a great deal of confidence moving forward.  Coach Dino Gaudio got his first signature win as head coach, and the team realized that it belonged on the same court as the number two team in the country. A trip to Chapel Hill is next for the Deacons, but they are more prepared for that test right now than they have been at any other point in the season.

On the other hand, Duke had some glaring flaws exposed. Kyle Singler was dominated by Johnson in the paint, often having no answer. Teague was able to get up and down the court and penetrate, scoring from all over the court. Duke also realized the struggle it will face when they don't shoot particularly well.

Perhaps most importantly, Duke found out what happens if the calls don't necessarily go their way. All five Duke starters fouled out (and deservedly so). 

In the past, Duke has been hurt come tourney time by officiating crews who were not intimidated by Coach K's sideline antics. This was a rare ACC game example of what happens when a game is called a little more closely.

Still, on this night the credit has to go to the Deacons. They outplayed the Devils throughout, and deserved the win. If the Deacons can use the confidence from this game down the road, they will be a threat to win every game they play. Twenty wins is a good possibility, and with it could come a NCAA Tournament berth.

Win or lose, Wake will move ahead as one team, fighting one fight. This team has already exceeded the expectations of many, and will continue to do so with each win they mount. The Deacons are writing quite the story, and I can't wait to see how it ends.