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Duke Pulls Away Late in the Second Half to Defeat Wake Forest 91-75

Duke capitalized on free throw opportunities and earned a road victory in Winston-Salem.

Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

In the 244th all time meeting between the teams, Wake Forest fell to the 14th ranked Duke Blue Devils tonight at home in the Deacs’ ACC home opener, 91-75. That brings Wake’s record on the season to 9-5 and 0-2 in the conference.

After controlling the opening tip, Duke got on the board first and the teams traded baskets early, getting off to a hot shooting start. Codi Miller-McIntyre started especially well, for the Deacs scoring in transition and defending well. At the first timeout, Duke led 12-11 with freshman phenom Brandon Ingram flexing his ball handling and scoring stroke.

Wake regained the lead on the fifth lead change after the timeout after two free throws from Dinos Mitoglou, and that back and forth pattern continued with few defensive stops on either end. The seventeenth Plumlee brother gave Mitoglou some trouble underneath the basket with some easy dunks, and Duke jumped out to a four point lead at the second TV timeout.

John Collins got on the board and ended a four minute scoring drought for the Deacs, but fouled Ingram on the other end of the floor. Duke’s game plan quickly came into view in the middle section of the first half: feed the big man. Wake generally had no answer for Ingram when he got the ball into the lane. John Collins added some flair with a big dunk, but quickly thereafter picked up his second personal foul, and Duke quickly stretched its lead to eight points as Grayson Allen found his stroke with a couple wide open three pointers.

Wake cut the Duke lead to six at the under 8:00 timeout, but the Blue Devils looked far more comfortable in their offense than the Deacs and were generally taking the game straight at Wake. Grayson Allen started 5-5 on the night with mostly easy baskets, sliding into the lane for uncontested layups and hitting open jump shots. Duke grew its lead to 12 with 5:48 to go in the half after an Ingram steal and coast to coast basket + foul shot. At this point in the game, the Deacs looked lost on both ends. Easy baskets for Duke and tough, contested shots for Wake were speeding up the pace and widening the gap.

But senior Wake star Devin Thomas was not ready to give up. He put the team on his shoulders for a stretch, single-handedly keeping the Deacs in the game on both ends. On Devin’s back, Wake cut the lead to five and forced a timeout from the Devils. After the timeout, the Wake run ended at 11-2 after an easy basket from Kennard, and the closest the Deacs could get in the first half was a one point deficit.

Duke switched to a 3-2 zone to try and stop the bleeding, but Devin still managed to find his way to the basket, scoring 17 first half points. Wake got another spark from Cornelius Hudson, who scored with an electric dunk off a steal, putting Grayson Allen on a poster and hitting his ensuing foul shot. Wake also brought the game back close by winning the offensive rebounding battle 10-1. At the half, Wake trailed 50-47.

I would be remiss if I did not mention the referees, because this is a marquee ACC matchup, and referees simply will not be ignored in those big games. They managed to call over 20 fouls in the first half as well as two lane violations and a variably tight whistle. Touch fouls 40 feet from the basket were called very close but the teams were allowed to bang hard under the basket.

Wake started with the ball in the second half down three, and who else but Devin Thomas cut the lead to one with a putback dunk. After Mitoglou picked up his third foul, Devin quickly picked up his second and third fouls, one of which was a technical foul out of frustration for letting Plumlee get by him, and with Thomas and Mitoglou sent to the bench, Duke’s led grew to eight.

Like a bridge troll, Plumlee hid behind the basket on successive possessions getting behind the Wake defense and picking up easy buckets. Whistles slowed the game to a grinding halt and put Duke in foul trouble. Before the under 16 minute timeout, Duke had two players with four fouls including Grayson Allen. With Duke’s short bench, the Deacs focused on attacking the rim and trying to wear out the Devils on both ends.

The 2-3 defense for Duke showed Wake’s scoring down a lot with their big men on the bench, so Coach Manning brought Thomas back in with three fouls with 14 minutes left in the game. Soon thereafter, Wake drew within two points of the lead. After a couple ugly possessions (Rondale Watson airball three level ugly), Ingram grew Duke’s lead to four, 62-58, at the under 12:00 timeout in the second half.

Settling for threes, even open threes, was foolish for the Deacs, who were 3-14 from distance but shooting very well in the paint. It was especially foolish with Duke in foul trouble, because attacking the basket was what got Duke in such foul trouble. That foolish play helped Duke grow its lead to seven, and then helped Wake cut it to four. Then Devin cut it to two.

Grayson Allen re-entered the game with 8:16 to go for the Devils, and Devin Thomas went out with his fourth foul. During that stretch, Duke went on an 8-0 run on the back of grad student Marshall Plumlee, grabbing a 10 point lead. As the lead hovered around seven points, Dinos Mitoglou picked up his fourth foul. Codi Miller-McIntyre showed his stripes and did his best to keep Wake Forest in the game, but the lead Duke built was eventually too much for Wake to overcome.

In spite of heroic efforts from Wake seniors Devin Thomas and Codi Miller-McIntyre, Wake was outmatched against the talented Duke team. For long stretches of the game, the teams looked evenly matched, but every time the Deacs made a mistake, the Devils capitalized. Neither team was consistently or unevenly the beneficiary of a closely whistled ball game, but Duke took advantage at the free throw line and off turnovers.

Duke also outshot the Deacs from distance and took better care of the ball. Grayson Allen and Brandon Ingram were always going to get theirs, but it was Marshall Plumlee who truly sunk the Deacs. In the end, the game just got away from the Deacs, who look ahead now to NC State at home on Sunday night.