DURHAM, NC – It’s hard to win at Cameron Indoor. Yet, Wake Forest was close — at times, incredibly close — to pulling a victory out of its magician’s hat. Instead, Duke did what it does so many times in Durham; it found the escape door.
In the first half, it was the shooting woes that kept the Deacs from grabbing firm control of the game; Wake Forest shot 28% from the field and went 4-19 from behind the arc. In two seperate stretches, the team missed eight and five-straight shots.
“You’d have to ask them, I wasn’t shooting,” Forbes said in regards to his team’s missed three-pointers (6-26 on the game). “They were wide open, and they’re all pretty damn good shooters. So I don’t know, I don’t have an answer.
“Sometimes, the ball doesn’t go in the hole. Find other ways to do things…We’re playing at Duke in Cameron. If you get an open shot, that’s a victory. So make it. You gotta step up and make those things.”
No Wake Forest players were available postgame for comment.
As for the second half, it was Wake Forest’s defense that became a struggle. The Deacs’ field goal percentage sprang up to 53%, but Duke’s was 62.5. The Blue Devils scored 48 points in the closing 20 minutes. Wake Forest did not record a single “kill” — three-straight stops — during that time.
This was most evident in the final four-plus minutes, when Wake Forest attempted to make a final sprint toward the finish line. An Efton Reid dunk closed the deficit to six. From there, Duke made its final four shots. The Deacs just couldn’t pull enough full stops together.
“We just couldn’t get any stops…” Forbes said. “[And when] we were getting stops, then we couldn’t get the ball and then we just kept fouling.”
The fouls again were a weight that held Wake Forest down. Reid earned his second foul with 16:18 remaining in the first half, then picked up his third under seven minutes later. He did not play again before halftime.
In the second, Forbes and his staff did a good job at finding ways to keep Reid on the floor for important moments, but he finally fouled out at the 1:51 mark after playing just 15 total minutes.
In those times he was out on the court, Reid was highly impactful, dropping eight points and securing at least four offensive rebounds. He was just one of two Wake Forest players to have a positive plus/minus statistic. The problem was, he just couldn’t be out there enough.
“Then, Efton gets a foul,” Forbes said, referring to his fourth less than a minute into the second half. “His foul trouble really hurt our team.”
Andrew Carr was able to play 28 minutes, but also dealt with fouls and later fouled out. According to Forbes, that had an impact on Wake Forest’s defensive scheme, leaving Damari Monsanto to guard Mark Mitchell for stretches at the four. Mitchell finished with a game-high 23 points.
“Andrew played well,” Forbes said. “But yeah, again he fouled…foul trouble all over the place.”
Carr and Reid being in foul trouble left Wake Forest trying to find minutes from alternative places. Initially, it was Matthew Marsh, who played 13 minutes, but finished with a -9 scoring differential. Later, before Carr fouled out, the Deacs shifted to a smaller lineup with the Delaware transfer at the five and Monsanto at the four.
“We don’t have a lot of options,” Forbes said. “Matt played some, but Matt wasn’t aggressive tonight. We had a situation where we blitzed at the four. Matt didn’t pull over and [Duke] got an and-one. I mean it’s just, come on man. We’ve been doing this stuff all year long.
“It’s not his fault. But yeah, we had to do what we had to do to try to stay in the game.”
For all of Wake Forest’s growth on the offensive end in the second half, a few glaring marks still stand out. The team finished the game 11-23 on layups.
“We got to finish those, right,” Forbes said. “We missed a lot of shots at the rim…We just missed a lot of open shots, and that happens on the road…We played better offense in the second half, but you got to play through contact. You can’t go in looking to get fouled.”
And, while Hunter Sallis was again fantastic with 22 points — Carr added 12 and Parker Friedrichsen scored an important 10 — the Deacs didn’t get the full scoring arsenal they needed to win. Cameron Hildreth, Boopie Miller and Monsanto combined for 15 points on 4-26 shooting.
“It’s tough to win that way for us, or any team, if three principal players are shooting the ball like that,” Forbes said.
For the severity of a quick turnaround after a Saturday win over NC State, Wake Forest now has the benefit of a longer break ahead of its next matchup — a road trip to Virginia to face the Cavaliers. Tip-off Saturday is set for 12pm on ESPN2.
Extra Points: Duke head coach Jon Scheyer was highly complimentary of Wake Forest postgame, stating “I think Wake Forest is a big time team. I don’t think they get the respect nationally…if you look statistically, analytically, all that stuff, they’re really like a top 25 team…I don’t know how you don’t think that’s a tournament team.” … Wake Forest won the turnover battle 9-13 and secured 15 offensive rebounds