It’s hard to believe that early in one of Gary Trent Jr.’s most efficient games in his collegiate career, he found himself bending over a trash can on the sidelines, subbed out early due to an illness that nearly sidelined him for the game.

But when the Columbus, Ohio, native got off the bench, he was in a zone.

With a team sitting at 90th in the nation in 3-point percentage, the Blue Devils have spent the season dominating the rim and hoping for the best at the perimeter. But with the chance to improve past a .500 record in conference play, two Duke players—Trent and reserve guard Alex O'Connell—proved they have the potential to be sharpshooting weapons for the Blue Devils as they barrel through ACC play.

“Well, [Gary]’s worked,” Duke associate head coach Jeff Capel said. “We’ve talked, but he’s worked. That’s the main thing. One of the things we’ve talked to him about is what works is work.... Even today with him being very sick, he was doing that. He was the guy—on the bench he was talking, on the court he was talking and I thought him just pushing through gave us a lot of energy.”

Returning to the court after being sidelined for just more than a minute early in the first half, the freshman guard started to find a rhythm with a triple to jumpstart Duke’s 14-2 run to take the lead from the Demon Deacons. Knocking down another 3-pointer and a free throw for good measure—though the 92.7 percent free throw shooter only split the pair at the line—Trent headed into the locker room at halftime showing no signs of being slowed down.

But it wasn’t until the second half that the No. 1 shooting guard in the high-school class of 2017 proved he was ready to be the sharpshooter the Blue Devils have needed all season.

Taking advantage of a scattered Wake Forest perimeter defense, Trent capitalized on shot after shot, knocking down four consecutive 3-pointers in the second half—including back-to-back buckets less than a minute apart. Finishing with a stellar 6-of-8 performance from the field—including 6-of-7 from beyond the arc—the Duke freshman put together arguably his most consistently dangerous showing in conference play to date.

But Trent was not alone. Despite senior Grayson Allen shooting an abysmal 0-for-5 from the field, O’Connell was more than ready to prove that Duke has more than one player deadly from long distance.

With just 10 minutes left to play in the first half, the Blue Devils found their lead slipping thanks to aggressive plays from junior guard Bryant Crawford and the Demon Deacons. But O’Connell was there to keep Wake Forest in check.

Playing off a defensive rebound from Allen, the Roswell, Ga., native knocked down a three to get on the board, and he later contributed nine straight points in less than a minute to spearhead a 13-5 run that closed the half. Although O’Connell scored just one more point after the break, the freshman guard contributed a career-high 13 points in just 15 minutes on the court.

“I’m ready to step up whenever they need me,” O’Connell said. “Gary wasn’t feeling too well today but he played his butt off, so I was ready to play today and I did a good job helping the team.”



With the likes of Marvin Bagley III and Wendell Carter Jr. dominating the paint for the Blue Devils, it’s easy to forget the Blue Devils' weapons on the perimeter. After all, Duke makes 72.1 percent of its shots around the rim and just 39.8 percent of its 2-point jump shots, according to hoop-math.com. 

But if Trent and O’Connell can keep their consistency from long range, Duke boasts a roster that can be dangerous everywhere on the court. Factor in Allen finding his shot again—the senior is shooting 40.0 percent from beyond the arc this season, but just 7-of-45 in conference play—and the Blue Devils could have all the tools they need to spread any opponent's defense thin.

“Any time we make shots from the perimeter, it’s big for us because we have two guys inside that are very good, very efficient and can get a whole team in foul trouble,” Capel said. “When we’re making shots, you have to go out there and guard them.”