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Wake Forest vs Duke: Key Matchup

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What can the Deacs do this time around to beat the Blue Devils?

NCAA Basketball: Clemson at Duke Mark Dolejs-USA TODAY Sports

The Deacs head to Cameron Indoor this Saturday to take on a Duke team that has been trending upwards ever since their comeback win over Wake Forest on January 28th. That being said, it’s time to go back and look at where Wake Forest can improve, and who they should focus on defensively to have a chance to beat the Devils this time around. It shouldn’t be much of a surprise that this key matchup focuses on Luke Kennard.

Kennard went off against the Deacs in this game, scoring 34 points on 11-14 shooting. He was a perfect 6-6 from beyond the arc and 10-10 from the floor in the second half. While Kennard is an outstanding offensive player, his second half explosion was aided by mismatches, defensive errors, and an inability to defend down screen plays.

What you see above is a huge mismatch. Kennard is 6’6 205lbs while Mitchell Wilbekin is listed at 6-2 175. That’s a pretty significant difference physically. I know some people aren’t big fans of advanced statistics, but according to Sports Reference, Kennard has an offensive rating (Sports ref uses points produced per 100 possessions) of 134.4, which is 7th best in the nation. On the other hand, Wilbekin has a defensive rating (points allowed per 100 possessions) of 112, which is the 3rd worst on the team among the scholarship players. I would avoid this matchup as much as possible if I was Wake Forest.

When defending one of the best shooters in the nation, it is inadvisable to lose sight of him. Woods does a nice job above of passing Tatum off to Arians and switching onto Kennard, but he gets caught ball watching and loses track of Kennard when he moves to the wing. To beat Duke on the road, Wake Forest must know where Kennard is at all times and not let him get any wide open looks at the basket. It could even be beneficial to have Kennard’s man stick to him like glue without worrying about help defense, but that is something the coaching staff will have to decide on.

Lastly, the Deacs will need to figure how to defend these down screen plays more effectively.

I know that this is a difficult play to defend (especially when all of the screens are allowed to be moving), but to win against a surging Duke team in one of the toughest places in the country to play, Wake Forest has to find a way to not give up so many open looks off of it.

A large portion of the second half of this game was just Duke setting screens on Kennard’s man allowing him to pop out and have an open look from beyond the arc, and the Deacs basically had no answer for it. Wake’s inability to defend this play is no doubt why Duke went to it on their last possession with 15 seconds left on the clock.

With Grayson Allen getting back to playing at a high level, defending Kennard and the Blue Devils just gets even more difficult. Picking up a win in Durham will certainly not be easy, but if the Deacs can defend the perimeter and the down screen plays, they should have a chance to bring home a big win.