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Surviving another shootout: Duke men's basketball holds off Wake Forest 99-94

<p>Junior Grayson Allen battled through turf toe again Saturday, making a few key 3-pointers in the second half.&nbsp;</p>

Junior Grayson Allen battled through turf toe again Saturday, making a few key 3-pointers in the second half. 

With 35 seconds left and his team trailing just 93-92 following an impressive comeback, Wake Forest sophomore Bryant Crawford sized up Blue Devil defensive stopper Matt Jones.

The Demon Deacon guard blew by Jones with a hard drive to his right, creating an angle for a go-ahead layup that would have put Wake Forest on top with a chance to pull out a major road upset.

But the shot was too strong, rolling harmlessly off the rim into the waiting arms of Jayson Tatum as Duke dodged another bullet to keep its winning streak alive.

Sparked by one of their best offensive performances on the season and a second-half surge, the No. 12 Blue Devils snuck past Wake Forest for a 99-94 victory Saturday afternoon at Cameron Indoor Stadium, stretching their winning streak to seven games. Duke drained 13 3-pointers on just 27 attempts, exploiting the ACC’s second-worst scoring defense and shooting a season-high 59.0 percent from the floor.

The Blue Devil offense featured a balanced attack with six players in double figures, led by 23 points from sophomore Luke Kennard and 19 from Tatum. Tatum followed up on a career-high 28 points Wednesday at No. 14 Virginia, shooting 6-of-11 from the field and adding seven boards.

“To continue to win in a league like this and fight our way back—we were down at the bottom and we’re working our way up,” Kennard said. “It shows a lot about the way we can stay together and the way that we can show toughness…. We’ve grown up a lot and we’ve learned.”

The Demon Deacons got another strong performance from sophomore big man John Collins. Wake Forest’s leading scorer—who stands seventh in the ACC at 18.5 points per contest—dominated the hosts, going for a double-double with 31 points and 15 boards and missing just five shots along the way.

After Duke (22-5, 10-4 in the ACC) seized as large as a 12-point advantage a little less than midway through the second stanza thanks to a 17-5 run, Wake Forest battled back, pulling within one with just more than 60 seconds to play.

“Today was the type of game where we just had to get enough stops,” Jones said. “We were able to do that and obviously, we’ve got a lot of things to fix but luckily we were able to win.”

The Demon Deacons (15-12, 6-9) used a 9-2 run in a little more than two minutes to close the margin and got an and-one lay-in from Brandon Childress to bring the score to 93-92.

But Crawford could not convert on his layup with 35 seconds remaining, allowing Tatum to knock down a pair at the free throw line and give the hosts some breathing room. Another missed shot deep in the paint from Crawford on the next possession kept the visitors from pulling the late-game upset.

Graduate student Amile Jefferson was instrumental in the Blue Devils closing the game out, grabbing a tough rebound on Crawford’s second miss and sinking a pair of free throws to ice the game. He had one of his best games since returning from a right-foot bone bruise with 16 points, seven rebounds and five blocks.

“Collins and Crawford can play with anybody and [Wake Forest head coach] Danny [Manning has] done a great job implementing such an aggressive style offensively to play,” Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “We knew it would be difficult for us and it was.”

Like the physical battle in the teams’ first matchup in Winston-Salem, N.C., earlier this season, Saturday’s contest featured more of the same as both teams pushed the pace early. The Demon Deacons—led by Collins down low—controlled the paint throughout the game for 46 points.

With both offenses in high gear from the start, neither team could take control in the first half. Duke and Wake Forest exchanged leads 14 times and were tied on seven occasions during the first 20 minutes. Despite the Blue Devils’ 7-of-14 shooting from beyond the arc, Collins kept the visitors well within reach, racking up 16 points and six rebounds before the break.

A quick 9-0 spurt in the early minutes of the second half sparked by freshman Frank Jackson as well as strong defense for Jefferson enabled Duke to open up its biggest cushion of the game.

And when the visitors pulled within reach, it was the Blue Devils’ long-range prowess that allowed Duke to hold off the Demon Deacons down the stretch.

“We’re a good offensive team,” Kennard said. “We share the ball, we shoot the right shots—we shoot our shots—and it’s good when we do that, when we’re able to play for each other and really play great basketball.”

Tatum, Kennard and Grayson Allen each finished the game with a trio of triples as the Blue Devils racked up 19 assists. Allen, struggling through the same turf-toe injury that plagued him earlier in the season, played just 12 second-half minutes, but chipped in six more helpers—the junior has 22 in the last five games.

After winning three of the last four at home, Duke will take to the road again Wednesday night as it travels to Syracuse for a battle with the Orange at the Carrier Dome, looking to make it eight straight victories.

“We finally have had everybody together, on one page, fairly healthy—at least they can practice and they’re getting to know one another,” Krzyzewski said. “At the end of ball games, we’ve been really tough. We’ve made winning stops, winning free throws, winning shots, and it hasn’t been one guy, really in all of the games.”

Mitchell Gladstone | Sports Managing Editor

Twitter: @mpgladstone13

A junior from just outside Philadelphia, Mitchell is probably reminding you how the Eagles won the Super Bowl this year and that the Phillies are definitely on the rebound. Outside of The Chronicle, he majors in Economics, minors in Statistics and is working toward the PJMS certificate, in addition to playing trombone in the Duke University Marching Band. And if you're getting him a sandwich with beef and cheese outside the state of Pennsylvania, you best not call it a "Philly cheesesteak." 


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