In the first sellout at LJVM since 2009, Wake Forest fell to #17 Duke, 85-83. Duke won its first conference game of the season, and Wake fell again in a game they led by double digits.
Wake started with the same lineup as recent weeks, and on a Keyshawn Woods hustle play, diving out of bounds, Wake won the tip, but Duke was first to score. Both teams worked the paint in the early going with Amile Jefferson providing the scoring for Duke and Dinos Mitoglou and Bryant Crawford getting on the board early for the Deacs. Duke added a couple threes after that, but Wake continued to feed the post in the early going. By the first TV timeout, Wake trailed 10-8.
The crowd at the Joel was vocal early booing Grayson Allen and jeering Luke Kennard’s quick two fouls. Jeff Capel showed a Krzyzewskianesque rage from early going on the simplest of officiating decisions, and the atmosphere was reminiscent of a Prosser-era matchup.
Straight out of the first timeout, John Collins picked up his second foul, and Doral Moore came in to take his place drawing former Wake target Harry Giles as a defensive matchup. Ted Valentine drew more attention to himself than any player in the early going, with three straight fouls called before the teams could make a shot after the timeout. Moore and Giles traded buckets, but then Doral Moore picked up his second foul, and Wake’s frontcourt was relegated to the bench with seven minutes before game time elapsed. Wake took the lead back with excellent guard play, 17-16 at the under 12:00 timeout.
Wake went very small out of the timeout, and Duke couldn’t find their big men while Wake’s rested. Grayson Allen hit two free throws, but otherwise Duke didn’t score for over four minutes. Wake could not take advantage of this drought, growing their lead to two points, but no further, 20-18 at the under 8:00.
Wake continued with John Collins on the bench through the next four minutes of game time as well and managed to keep their slim advantage during the stretch. Keyshawn Woods scored a quick five on his birthday including a very deep three and a nice runner. With five minutes left in the half, Duke had four players with two fouls, and Wake’s lead grew to six, its largest of the game. With 3:45 left in the first half, Wake led 34-28.
Grayson Allen’s three pointers kept Duke in the game and quieted the crowd a bit, but Wake’s aggressive defense grew their lead to ten. Doral Moore picked up his third foul with less than two minutes in the half, and Dinos Mitoglou came in. John Collins would not come back in after his early two fouls. At half, Wake led 42-32.
Duke hit the first basket of the second half, a well worked three from the wing by Luke Kennard. John Collins made his presence immediately felt with two baskets in the lane, but Duke cut the lead to eight with their outside shooting. Wake was called for a ten second violation with 21 seconds left on the shotclock, and their lead was cut to six. Bryant Crawford brought it quickly back to nine with a gorgeous drive and foul. By the first television timeout of the second half, Wake led 49-42.
The first time all afternoon the referees swallowed their whistles, Duke got a big defensive stop, and after an open three, the lead was cut to four. Jayson Tatum picked up his fourth foul quickly thereafter and went to the bench. Luke Kennard took advantage of a matchup against the much smaller Mitchell Wilbekin, nailing a three and cutting the lead to two. Harry Giles and Luke Kennard then quickly picked up their fourth fouls as the Duke bigs struggled to guard the post and frequently pushed John Collins in the back.
Grayson Allen was called for an obvious blocking foul and then picked up a technical for words to the Wake player, his second and third fouls. Bryant Crawford was called for the other half of a double technical for reasons unknown. By the under 12:00 timeout, Wake led 59-55, and Keyshawn Woods came out of the game hobbling, the trainers paying attention to his left knee.
Through sheer grace and courage under pressure, Jeff Capel reached deep into his bench and found Antonio Vrankovic to pick up three fouls on Collins. Wake grew their lead to six for a stretch. Mitchell Wilbekin was no match for Luke Kennard, who continually beat him off the dribble, drawing a three shot foul at the under 8:00 timeout.
With every foul in the game, the announcers’ reverence grew for the officiating as the game slowed to a crawl. Jayson Tatum picked up his fifth foul smacking Brandon Childress in the face with the ball, but the officials did not deem it a flagrant foul, likely correctly. Token Duke pressure in the full court gave Wake some trouble, but the pick and roll and halfcourt sets from Wake gave the Deacs a big lift.
Duke’s defense had absolutely nothing for John Collins inside all game. When he wasn’t scoring at will, he was getting to the line. Collins also acquitted himself extremely well on the defensive end. Wake couldn’t run much clock, and the game continued to get more physical and verbal. Grayson Allen was the powderkeg, but Bryant Crawford was giving it back too. The powderkeg quickly blew with a big scuffle in front of the Duke bench, and Brandon Childress was given a technical foul for throwing said powderkeg back to the bench. By the time the clock finally ticked under four minutes left in the game, Wake led 81-74.
Luke Kennard brought Duke within five out of the timeout off a long two, but Keyshawn Woods answered right back. Then Luke Kennard hit another big three, his thirty-first point of the night. Duke called a timeout with 1:15 left and the ball, down four. Grayson Allen hit an open three out of the timeout, and the lead was cut to one. From there, Wake failed to score, and Duke stole the game on their final possession with another Kennard three, 85-83.
Wake could not get the ball into the paint down the stretch. This refrain is all too familiar for Wake fans this season. The team collapsed on both ends and blew another late lead. Crawford and Collins played some of the best basketball of their career, but Luke Kennard played better. Duke finished on a 9-0 run. The bigger loss overall may have been John Collins going down extremely hard trying to get a rebound on the final Wake possession.
One parting note: let’s dispense with the notion that Duke is playing with tremendous courage or resilience. They are perhaps the most talent-laden team in the conference, maybe even in the country. Their coaching staff has one of the best pedigrees in the nation even with their Hall of Fame head coach sidelined with injury. Their struggles this season are not unique—teams struggle. I’ve read and heard pundits use terms like “spiritual” and “soul,” but it’s far simpler than that. A very good team is underperforming. Wins like these are games they are supposed to win. College basketball today doesn’t need the narrative that many writers and announcers are giving to Duke—they will supply their own on the basketball court. This blog will play no part in that.