WINSTON-SALEM -- You probably won't see Grant Hill wearing a backpack for the next few days.
Instead, he'll be resting his shoulders from an unsuccessful attempt to strap the men's basketball team to his back and carry it past Wake Forest in a 78-69 loss to the Demon Deacons Sunday at Lawrence Joel Coliseum.
Even though Hill scored 24 points, grabbed 13 rebounds, and had six assists and three steals, the Demon Deacons (16-7 overall, 6-4 in the Atlantic Coast Conference) were able to complete their first regular season sweep of Duke (17-3, 8-3) since the 1982-1983 season.
On Jan. 13 of this season, a late three-pointer by Randolph Childress helped the Demon Deacons sneak by Duke 69-68 at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
"No bones about it, we're awfully happy," said Wake Forest head coach Dave Odom after completing the sweep. "In beating Duke, you've beaten one of the best teams in the country. At least for that moment, it gives you the feeling that you do belong."
The Demon Deacons earned that feeling with good defense and quality free-throw shooting down the stretch. Wake Forest held the Blue Devils to 32.4 percent shooting in the second half in building a 61-54 lead with 4:40 to play. After that, the ACC's best free throw shooting team (74.3 percent) put the game away by converting 17-of-20 attempts from the line during the last 3:20 of the game.
"Wake played an outstanding game against us," Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "They played like a poised, veteran basketball team. They were a lot better than we were, especially in the second half."
That second half saw Duke squander a 39-34 halftime lead, established mostly through the hard work and sweat of Grant Hill. In the first half, Hill connected on 8-of-12 shots and a free throw for a total of 18 points. He scored in a variety of ways from all over the court, sinking a three-pointer for one basket and capping a drive down the lane with an amazing slam dunk for another.
"In the first half, Grant Hill was simply an All-American basketball player," Odom said. "And he played within the framework of the team."
But a torrid half of shooting by Marc Blucas kept Wake Forest within striking distance. Blucas sank all five shots he took from the field, including four three-pointers. He also made two free throws for a total of 16 points which neutralized Hill's performance.
"Blucas just kept them in the ballgame," Krzyzewski said. "That's a veteran, poised guy. It's not like we didn't expect him to hit open shots."
Neither Blucas nor Hill were able to put up the same kind of numbers in the second half. Blucas took only one shot and missed it, while Hill went 3-of-12 from the field. Many of Hill's shots came, however, in the final minutes, as he attempted to pull out a victory. He had passed up shots earlier in the second half in order to get his teammates more involved. Krzyzewski felt Hill should have kept firing away.
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"Grant was trying to do everything and we didn't give him enough help," Krzyzewski said. "He is almost too unselfish, he's trying to get everybody going. We didn't look to him enough. He shouldn't have passed the ball as much in the second half. We might have won if he had taken 40 shots."
Where no one stepped up to assist Grant Hill for Duke, Randolph Childress and Trelonnie Owens were able to pick up the scoring slack for the Demon Deacons. Childress and Owens, who finished with 28 and 12 points respectively, did the bulk of the scoring in the second half and put Wake Forest in a position to win the game at the charity stripe. Childress scored 22 points and Owens added 10 in the second half.
"In the first half, when I got down inside, I was just trying to kick the ball out to my teammates," Childress said. "In the second half, I just decided to come out and be a little more aggressive, and that's what I did."
Meanwhile, Duke was struggling to stay aggressive from the field as shot after shot missed the mark. The Blue Devils had trouble shooting from the outside all game, making just 5-of-19 three-point attempts for 26.3 percent.
"I thought we had good shots," Krzyzewski said. "You've got to shoot shots confidently, even after you've missed shots. We didn't shoot with confidence and I'm not sure why."
The team's confidence was clearly affected, as Marty Clark and Chris Collins passed up some open outside shots to try and penetrate in the second half. As a result, Duke made only two three pointers in the second half. Both of these came during the final 1:06 of the game, when the Blue Devils needed to take three pointers in a desperate measure to catch up.
"We were trying to go baseline, and they've got shot blockers down there," Collins said. "I wanted to make sure we were getting good shots. A couple of times I might have been open, but I wanted to make sure we worked it around a little, and got some good shots."
On the inside, Cherokee Parks was able to give the Blue Devils a small lift, scoring eight consecutive points during a 1:55 span early in the second half. But Parks went to the bench for a quick breather and picked up his fourth foul only 13 seconds after returning with just more than 10 minutes to go in the game.
He would score only one point the rest of the way, and became the first Blue Devil to foul out of a contest this season when he picked up his fifth foul with 29 seconds left in the game.
Tony Lang also provided the Blue Devils with a lift on the inside, but he too was inconsistent. Lang scored 11 points in the first half but tallied only one basket after halftime.
Ultimately, Duke's problem was that neither the perimeter players nor the inside player could add to Hill's scoring.
"We get the ball inside," Clark said. "We have good players in Cherokee Parks and Tony Lang. We take good shots on the perimeter. To go for 32 percent is disgusting."
NOTE: Disappointed with the team's play against Wake Forest, Krzyzewski called a late-Sunday night practice. The Blue Devils worked out in Cameron Indoor Stadium.