Duke’s potent offense emerged and six players finished in double-figures as the No. 12 Blue Devils held off Wake Forest 99-94 for an ACC home win.
The Demon Deacons missed a chance to tie with under 30 seconds left but Bryant Crawford missed a difficult driving layup and Amile Jefferson closed out the game at the free-throw line.
The Blue Devils (22-5, 10-4) had a tough time getting late defensive stops, and they missed a few late free throws to keep Wake Forest in the game, but the Blue Devils also couldn’t be stopped on the offensive end.
Luke Kennard paced Duke with a team-high 23 points while Jayson Tatum added 19 points — including two key free throws with 31.1 seconds left to make it a three-point game. Jefferson (16 points), Frank Jackson (12 points), Grayson Allen (11 points) and Matt Jones (10 points) also finished in double-figures for the Blue Devils.
Duke’s defense is going to continue to be a big concern down the stretch and I’m not sure how they fix it. They’re going to this smaller lineup because it is so effective on offense but Jefferson at the five offers minimal rim protection and a lot of the team’s perimeter defenders are average at best. The Blue Devils don’t need to turn into a shutdown team with an offense as good as this, but they can’t let opposing teams get to the rim whenever they want and score with ease as we saw on Saturday.
Wake Forest (15-12, 6-9) did everything they could to stay in this one but they’ll just end up with two very close losses to Duke during the regular season. Big man John Collins continued to show that he’s one of the best players in the ACC with 31 points and 15 rebounds. Crawford added 21 points while Keyshawn Woods added 13 points.
The Demon Deacons found themselves down for most of the second half but they fought as hard as possible to stay in this one. One notable thing about the end of this game is how Wake Forest went away from Collins with less than two minutes left. While Wake Forest often found themselves down by three or four points during this stretch, they forced a lot of contested looks — some of them two-pointers — as they ended up falling.
It’ll be interesting to see if Collins becomes more of an offensive focal point down the stretch of tight games. Wake Forest still has three games left and two of them are coming at home against Pitt and Louisville while they still travel to Virginia Tech. For Wake to feel comfortable about its postseason chances they probably need to win two of those three games.