WINSTON-SALEM, N.C.—For the first time this season and 14 games in, Duke played a game in an opponent’s home arena. And after an even start to the contest, the Blue Devils responded in a big way to pull away towards the end of the first half.

Duke opened the season with a blowout victory against Kentucky and then won two out of three games in Maui this past November for a runner-up finish at the Maui Invitational. The Blue Devils also knocked off Texas Tech at Madison Square Garden last month.

But up until today, head coach Mike Krzyzewski’s freshman-laden starting lineup was yet to compete in a true road game.

“We’re trying to get ready for March, so where do you get a chance to play in huge neutral arenas against outstanding nonconference teams?” Krzyzewski said. “You don’t do it during conference, so that’s our plan, whether we’re first, last or whatever, what the hell does that mean?”

With five neutral-site games on the ledger as well as a home game for the ACC/Big Ten challenge, the Blue Devils filled the rest of their nonconference slate with home contests against non-Power 5 schools.

Last season, the Blue Devils defeated Indiana on the road in the ACC/Big Ten challenge and fell to St. John’s—which Duke will host next month—as part of their two road games. But those two games this year are both home, thus resulting in the lack of a true road contest.

The Blue Devils have attracted some national criticism for becoming the final Division-I program to play a road game this season. Tobacco Road rival North Carolina, in contrast, began the season with a pair of road contests against Wofford and Elon. One AP voter—Graham Couch—even refused to put Duke on his AP Top 25 ballot through Monday’s poll due to the fact that the Blue Devils had not yet played an opponent on their home court.

“It’s something we didn’t do, so then it becomes, you’re a bad guy because you haven’t done it. We’re not as good because we haven’t done that yet,” Krzyzewski said. “It’s ludicrous, really. When I see stuff like that, it cheapens that person’s knowledge of the game. Knowledge of the game. Come on, man. We come up with a top-10 schedule every year.”

The young team has responded to the neutral-site games with three wins out of four against then-top 12 teams.

“It was different for sure,” junior Marques Bolden said. “First true road game so we just had to come out and play hard from the jump.”

The start of this game was the polar opposite of the way the Blue Devils closed out the contest. After taking opening up a 14-8 advantage in the opening minutes, Wake Forest regrouped and knocked down a pair of 3-pointers and saw its deficit turn into a four-point lead in a matter of three minutes as it appeared the road environment may shake up a Duke team that entered the contest as a 20-point favorite.

But in his first career road game, freshman Zion Williamson halted the home crowd’s cheers as he took control of the offense and scored the next two baskets which were followed by freshman R.J. Barrett converting a layup for the 22-20 lead.

“We’ve got another [road game] in a couple days,” Barrett said. “We love road games. Silencing the crowd is fun.”

While veteran leaders like captains Javin DeLaurier and Jack White have played in road games in the past, this first true road environment for the four starting freshman will be crucial practice for the daunting slate of the ACC and the numerous upcoming top-25 matchups in opposing territory for the Blue Devils.

“I think it was a good test for our young guys, it was their first time [in] a road game,” DeLaurier said.

Yet, despite technically playing in a road game Tuesday, the environment in Winston-Salem was not nearly as hostile as some of the arenas Duke will find itself in going forward. Due to the proximity to Durham, the crowd at Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum was about half Blue Devil supporters.

After taking Wednesday as a mandatory off day, the team will then begin to prepare for their Saturday matchup with No. 13 Florida State on the road in Tallahassee, Fla.

“That’s why I came to the ACC. There’s no conference like it,” Williamson said. “For my first away game, it was great. I’m glad we were able to get a win and now onto the next.”