Duke (23-6, 12-4) – Wake Forest (15-14, 5-11) Game 2 Preview
Randy Dunson & Brian Horace
March 5, 2014
Wake Forest welcomes No. 4 Duke to Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum (LJVMC) on Wednesday, March 5. The Demon Deacons fell to the Blue Devils 83-63 on February 4 and are 0-7 against them over the last four years. In their last outing, despite 18 points from sophomore forward Devin Thomas, the Demon Deacons fell to Boston College 80-72 on March 1. He is averaging 11.4 points per game and leads the team in rebounds with 7.7 per game. The Demon Deacons are unranked and their highest national statistical ranking is 22nd in Free Throw Shooting. All of the above said, this is Senior Night for Wake so both its players and fans will be pumped to prevail in a quality win. Wake Forest will honor senior Travis McKie and graduate student transfer Coron Williams in a pre-game ceremony. Williams ranks 18th on the school’s single-season 3-point field goal list with 57. He is trying to become the first Deacon with 60 3-pointers in a season since Justin Gray in 2006. The Deacons will be trying to finish off a home sweep of their in-state rivals, looking to beat Duke, North Carolina, and NC State at home for the first time since the 2008-09 season. This marks the first season since 2003-04 that Wake Forest has had home-and-home series with all three in-state rivals. Wake’s last game of the season follows on Saturday, March 8 at Miami.
In the first of its two final remaining regular season games, Duke travels up the road a bit to Winston-Salem, NC where they will face Wake Forest. Duke climbed back into the Associated Press top five this week, jumping from No. 6 to No. 4 following a 66-48 win over Virginia Tech. Duke, also ranked No. 4 in the USA Today Coaches’ Poll, is 56-12 all-time when playing as the No. 4 team in the AP poll. The Blue Devils are 21-3 against unranked teams this season, though the three losses have all come on the road to ACC teams. Duke will play Wake Forest on eight days rest, its longest stretch without a game since the turn of the calendar. Duke had previously played five games in 11 days and went 4-1 during that span. Duke has scored fewer than 70 points in five straight games after failing to hit that benchmark just four times in 18 games prior. Duke’s final game of the season is on Saturday, March 8 when they play at home in Round 2 of the “Battle of the Blues”. If Duke prevails against Wake then Saturday’s game with UNC becomes mission-critical with 2nd place in the ACC standings and a No. 2 seed in the ACC Tournament there for the taking with a victory on Senior Night.
Team Seasons Thus Far
Wake Forest Demon Deacons
Sophomore forward Devin Thomas (11.4 PPG, 7.7 RPG) and senior forward Travis McKie (11.1 PPG, 4.3 RPG) scored 18 points apiece for Wake Forest, but Boston College rallied after relinquishing the lead in the second half to defeat the Demon Deacons 80-72 on Saturday, March at LJVM Coliseum. Wake Forest had come back from a six-point halftime deficit to go in front midway through the second half, but Boston College responded by scoring on its next seven possessions to build its lead back to double digits. The Demon Deacons had the ball down four points with four minutes left but missed three consecutive field goals, allowing the Eagles to put the game away. Wake had its second-best game of the season from the free throw line, converting 26-of-32 attempts (81.3 percent). Thomas scored 12 of his 18 points from the free throw line, sinking 12 of 16 free throw attempts, a career-high for both makes and attempts for the sophomore forward. Four of five Deacon starters had double figure scoring days. In addition to McKie and Thomas, fifth year guard sophomore guard Coron Williams (9.2 PPG, 2.1 RPG) contributed 13 and sophomore guard Codi Miller-McIntyre (13.3 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 4.0 APG) had 10.
Prior to the BC loss, Wake won at home against Clemson, but dating back from that game, the Demon Deacons have the inauspicious statistic of suffering back-to-back losses for the fourth time this season. Williams (1.2 APG, 0.3 TPG) has only committed nine turnovers coming into tonight’s game. The Deacons lead the ACC in free throw rate (50.3%) and are averaging 26 free throw attempts per game. The Deacons are scoring 15 points per game at the line on the season. Wake Forest has lost 83 percent of the time this season (1-5) after recording 20 or fewer field goals made. When the opposition shoots a field goal percentage of 49.1 percent or better this season, Wake Forest has lost 100 percent of the time (0-4). When the opposition records 79 or more total points this season, Wake Forest has lost 80 percent of the time (1-4). Over the past four games, McKie has averaged 19.0 points while going 11-for-26 from 3-point range. He has also led the team in scoring in five-out-of-22 games this season and has four straight double-digit point games. Thomas has led the team in rebounding in 13 out of 22 games this season.
A side note for the Deacons is that McKie and Georgia Tech’s Daniel Miller are on pace to become only the ninth and 10th players in ACC history to start all of their team’s games over a four-year career. McKie has started 123 straight games, while Miller is on a 122-game streak. McKie is on pace to challenge Tim Duncan (127) for the most career starts at Wake Forest.
Duke Blue Devils
Many fans might have forgotten but Duke last played on February 25! After a grueling schedule that included games against their fiercest rival, UNC, and the nation’s top-ranked team in a span of about 48 hours, redshirt sophomore forward Rodney Hood scored 21 points to help the sixth-ranked Blue Devils beat Virginia Tech 66-48 on that Tuesday night. Duke completed a stretch of five games in 11 days by beating the last-place Hokies. The Blue Devils fought to the final second to hold off Maryland on February 15, then traveled to Georgia Tech before losing the weather-delayed rivalry game at North Carolina. Two nights later, they held off then-No. 1 Syracuse at home, then returned once more to Cameron Indoor Stadium to beat Virginia Tech. “Probably everybody in the back of their minds was looking forward to (the break),” sophomore guard Rasheed Sulaimon (9.3 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 2.6 PPG) said, “but at the same time we knew we had to take care of business.” The win, along with Clemson’s loss at Wake Forest, helped secure some extra rest for the Blue Devils. They are assured a top-four seed in Greensboro and the double-round bye that comes with it. Sulaimon scored 15 points for the Blue Devils, who shot 39 percent and went 10-for-33 from 3-point range, well below their ACC-leading 40.7 percent from behind the arc. After trailing 32-20 at halftime, Jarell Eddie drove by Hood for a basket that got the Hokies within 34-27 with 17:59 left. However, Virginia Tech got no closer, with Sulaimon knocking down two 3’s then junior center Marshall Plumlee slamming home a miss to push the lead to 51-36. The Hokies never got the lead to single digits again.
Following the 66-48 win over Virginia Tech on February 23, Duke reached 12 ACC wins for the fifth consecutive season. The Blue Devils have won 12 conference games 17 times under head coach Mike Krzyzewski. Duke owns an assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.57:1, which would rank as the highest ratio since Duke began tracking turnovers in the 1970-71 season. The Blue Devils logged a school-record 1.51:1 assist-to-turnover ratio last season, bettering the previous school record of 1.32 set in 2000-01. Duke has shot better than 50.0 percent from three-point range in three of the past five road games while hitting double-digit three-pointers in four of those five contests. Sophomore redshirt transfer Rodney Hood and senior guard Tyler Thornton (3.3 PPG, 3.4 APG) have combined to shoot .512 (21-of-41) from long range during that five-game span. Opposing teams have managed just a 0.84:1 assist-to-turnover ratio against Duke this season, ranked tied for the second-lowest mark in the ACC behind only North Carolina (0.79) and tied with Virginia. Duke has forced its opponent into more turnovers than assists 19 times this season and in five consecutive games. Freshman forward Jabari Parker has a double-double in eight of his past 11 games and is averaging 18.5 points and 11.6 rebounds per game during that stretch. Parker has an ACC-leading 12 double-doubles this season and ranks among the league’s top three in scoring (2nd, 18.8 PPG), rebounding (1st, 8.9 RPG) and field goal percentage (3rd, .479 – 192-of-401). Fifth year senior Andre Dawkins (8.5 PPG, 1.4 RPG) needs just 10 points to become the 63rd Duke player to join the 1,000-point club. Dawkins is averaging a career-best 8.5 points per game this season. Thornton has 32 assists and just four turnovers in his past 10 games, good for an 8.0:1 assist-to-turnover ratio during that span, and has not committed more than one turnover in any of Duke’s 16 ACC games this season and has posted turnover-free performances nine times in conference play. Hood is averaging 16.3 points per game in his first season at Duke, which would be the highest scoring average by a transfer under Coach K in his first season, bettering the previous averages of Seth Curry (9.0 PPG, 2010-11), Roshown McLeod (11.9 PPG, 1996-97) and Dahntay Jones (11.2 PPG, 2001-02).
Duke leads the all-time series with Wake Forest, 162-77. The Blue Devils have won each of the past seven meetings, including twice last season. The Wake Forest-Duke series is the oldest in the ACC, dating back to the 1906 season. The series is also the league’s most frequently played, as it is in its 240th all-time meeting. With the recent ACC expansion, Wake Forest and Duke are now annual rivals who will play twice every season. The Blue Devils replace Georgia Tech as one of Wake Forest’s two rivals, along with NC State.
In terms of a few select statistical parameters, Duke pretty much predominates in each, which gives the Blue Devils a significant edge head-to-head.
Four Factors to Winning
As might be expected, Duke has a decided edge when reviewing when matched against Wake Forest. Oddly enough, the one factor that Wake has a significant edge in is shooting free throws (FT Rate) at 50.3% vs. 40.0%. Duke has the edge in the other three, shooting (eFG%) at 54.5 vs. 49.6, ball handling (TO%) at 14.4 vs. 18.3, and offensive rebounding (OR%) 33.5 vs. 29.9.
Key Points to Consider
It is no secret the Blue Devils can score, but what Duke needs to do in this game is defend. The first game was indeed a blowout but Wake was without leading scorer Codi Miller-McIntyre. Duke will have to slow down the sophomore guard. The task will be tougher this time around with Wake now boasting five players averaging 9 points per game or better. We expect a good defensive effort from Duke with the rest and practice time they have recently been afforded after their latest tough stretch of games. It may take Duke a little while to shake off the rust but after 8 to 9 minutes, if they defend well they should be on their way to a double-digit half-time lead. All of that is provided Duke plays Duke defense.
Duke should be able to take this team out but as we know, the road in the ACC is a different animal. Duke has not been the strongest road team this year and it is difficult to say which Wake or which Duke team will show up in this game. Will it be the Wake that beat Clemson or the Wake that was dismantled by UNC? Losing nine out of their last 12 is not how this team wanted to end the season and one would think that this could be a make or break last two games for the Coach, Jeff Bzdelik. There will be a lot of emotion in the Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum from this team, hoping to end the last home game on a high note. Seniors Travis McKie and Coron Williams final home game could provide a spark for the Deacs but Duke should be able to weather that storm and win this game without too much difficulty.