WINSTON-SALEM, N.C.—It’s not often that Marvin Bagley III looks human. 

And a terrestrial being he appeared Tuesday against Wake Forest, having the show stolen from him in the first half by a lanky 7-foot-1 center. 

Doral Moore, who more closely resembles a stretched-out video game character than an ACC basketball player, was better than Bagley on Tuesday in the early going, throwing down dunk after dunk with a dazed Bagley watching in the vicinity. But in Bagley’s worst collegiate half, Duke, as usual, had one underappreciated and steady force in the post—Wendell Carter Jr. 

For the third straight game, Carter avoided the perils of foul trouble, his Achilles' heel for much of the season, and he smoothly put up a double-double to help offset Moore's first-half explosion. He was there again to pick up the Blue Devils when the Demon Deacons made a frantic push late, breaking a nearly five-minute scoreless streak with a jumper to give No. 4 Duke a decisive double-digit lead in an eventual 84-70 win.  

This is not the same Carter that teetered in and out of foul trouble—and in and out of the game—early in the season, forced to watch long stretches of big games from the bench. 

“He was making silly mistakes,” Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski said after Saturday’s game against Pittsburgh. “He and Marvin are such good students of the game...so many of these kids, when they come from high school, they haven’t watched tape. They’ve watched tape of when they dunk or do something spectacular...but they don’t watch when they commit a silly foul. When they come here—and we're not the only program—they have an opportunity to be educated about the game.”

Even 10 days ago, when Duke took on the Demon Deacons at home, Carter fouled out, then his fourth straight game with four or more fouls. Now, he has five fouls in his last three games combined. 

On the flip side, Carter, Bagley and Duke silenced Moore in the second half, holding him to just four more points and forcing him to foul out after he scored 14 in the first. 

“We didn’t do anything to him except we went to our bigs, and our bigs can play, so you’re going to foul them unless you double them,” Krzyzewski said Tuesday.

It certainly worked for Duke in the end—Carter had 23 points and 12 rebounds to go along with Bagley’s eventual strong scoring effort with 12 points in the second half and 16 for the game.

"In the first half, they were winning the rebound margin and [Carter] was on Moore, who was getting a few offensive rebounds and putbacks," Allen told reporters. "I told him to rebound and if he’s boxing him out, I’ll come down and get those long rebounds over his head, he just needs to get a body on him. Just certain stuff like that, and then it’s fixed in an instant.”

Although free-throw shooting was once a concern for both of Duke's twin towers, it wasn't on Wednesday—Carter and Bagley combined to finish 18-of-24 from the charity stripe. 

Carter was able to stay on the floor to take those free throws and be more of a threat on defense because of a newfound commitment to verticality on defense. It got him two blocks Tuesday and helped him swat four shots against Miami Jan. 15, including a late block of Hurricane big man Dewan Huell that gave Duke a key stop late. 

“At Miami, they only said he blocked four shots, but it’s hard for me to believe. I thought he blocked four in the last 10 minutes,” Krzyzewski said Saturday. “He’s protected our rim very well. He and Marvin have learned to be in the restricted area and not to take charges, but to use the principle of verticality and go straight up. A lot of players never learn that. But as a freshman, Wendell has got it down.”

Carter says he was worked hard on his defense, in particular on his lateral quickness. 

“I guess it’s something that our coaches have been preaching to us, so I’ve definitely been more jumpity or excited on the defensive end,” Carter said after Saturday's game. 

Another change that has helped Carter’s quickness: he’s 12 to 15 pounds lighter than when he arrived at Duke, Krzyzewski said. He was never out of shape or too big, Krzyzewski said, but Carter now has better endurance and is more confident facing the basket. 

“He’s always been good, so improvement means that he’s gotten real good, but he’s always been good. He’s been one of the better players in the league, and in the country,” Krzyzewski said. “He’s going to play basketball for a long time and be a very good player because he can shoot, he can handle, he’s smart, and he’s 6-10, 245. Other than that, he stinks, you know?”