The Wake Forest Men’s Basketball team fell to the Duke Blue Devils at home by a score of 64-76. This was a 40-minute game that was decided in the span of about 3 minutes. With 54 seconds remaining in the first half, Wake Forest managed to gain a 2-point lead on the Blue Devils despite a slow start and Jake LaRavia sitting for most of the first half due to foul trouble. In the final 40 seconds of the first half, the Deacs gave up a layup, turned the ball over, gave up a 3-pointer, turned the ball over again, and then gave up yet another 3-pointer. In the span of 40 seconds, the Deacs went from up 2 to down 6 to close out the half.
Unfortunately, the second half started the way the first half ended. The Blue Devils came out on an 8-1 run capped off by a turnover and a fast break dunk by Mark Williams, and, frankly, that was pretty much the game. From the 44 second mark of the first half to the 17:46 in the second, Wake Forest went from up 29-27 to down 30-43. From that point, the Duke lead got as high as 20 and never dropped below double digits.
Simply put, Wake Forest did not play well enough in this one to beat an extremely talented team like Duke. The Deacs shot just 44% from the floor and 13% from beyond the arc—obviously that kind of shooting is not going to result in many wins in the ACC. Wake also turned the ball over 15 times resulting in 22 points for Duke and got outscored in the paint 36-44.
There was way too much 1 on 1 on the offensive side and basically no ball movement, resulting in just 7 assists on 24 made baskets for the Deacs. That is the second lowest assist total of the season and only the third game Wake has played with fewer than 10 assists. Far too often, it seemed as though the rest of the team was just standing around watching, waiting for Alondes Williams to do everything on offense. Williams did finish with a game high 25 points, but he also 7 had turnovers. He got a little help from Jake LaRavia, who finished with 14 points (all in the second half), but Williams and LaRavia were the only two Deacs with more than 6 points. The Deacs must have more contributions from the rest of the team to be successful this season.
On the other side, Paolo Banchero looked as good as advertised. He showed off his ability to score at any level, going from driving and dunking to hitting step back 3-pointers right in the defender's face. He finished with 24 points and 5 rebounds and basically did whatever he wanted against the Deacs. The Blue Devils also got a huge contribution from Freshman forward AJ Griffin, who finished with 22 points on 8-11 shooting in his first career start. If he continues to play like that, Duke will likely make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament in March.
Despite the loss, it was nice to see the Joel at near capacity again. Even with the new covid rules for entry, the listed attendance for this game was 14,213. The atmosphere was fantastic, and the student turnout reminded me of games back in the Prosser era. Hopefully that is something that can continue going forward.
The Deacs are on the road for the next two games to take on Virginia and Georgia Tech before returning home to take on UNC. Virginia and their defense are always a tough game, and I’m sure I don’t have to remind you about Wake’s drought of winning in Atlanta. The Deacs are a middle of the pack team in the ACC right now, but the next three games should tell us if they are going to be at the top of that pack or the bottom. On to the next one. Go Deacs!