Duke collapsed late against Wake Forest Tuesday night, squandering a nine-point lead with 1:21 remaining in regulation before falling 113-101 in double overtime. The Blue Zone breaks down three key takeaways, stats and looks forward for the Blue Devils:
Three key takeaways:
“Choking” down the stretch
For a team that has been able to pull off tough victories in close games as of late, Duke was anything but “clutch” in the waning moments of Tuesday’s game. Up 78-69 with 1:21 to go in regulation, the Blue Devils simply needed to hang onto the ball and run the clock out a few times to come away with a victory. Instead, three Duke turnovers and a missed free throw later, the two teams were headed to overtime, with all the momentum on Wake Forest’s side.
The Demon Deacons’ Brandon Childress had been 0-of-10 from the field before hitting the game-tying three with 17 seconds left, emblematic of a colossal collapse on the Blue Devils' part. With close victories against North Carolina and Louisville, it had seemed that Duke had matured as a team, but losses like this one will surely leave fans scratching their heads.
Justin Robinson joins the rotation
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the game came in the first half, when graduate forward Justin Robinson entered the contest to provide a spark. As Duke sputtered out of the gates in what’s become the norm in road games, Robinson was what the doctor ordered to get the Blue Devils back in the game despite an early 12-point deficit.
The captain provided poise and experience in his 15 total minutes of play, recording six points, three blocks and two steals. His presence was crucial to Duke tying up the game at 39 apiece going into halftime, and his excellent play may lead to more minutes going forward. Should that be the case, it appears that fellow captain Jack White may be the one that gets squeezed from head coach Mike Krzyzewski's 10-man rotation, as the senior has failed to record more than four minutes in each of the Blue Devils' last three games.
The in-state struggles continue
Tuesday night’s game brings Duke's loss total to five on the season. Out of those five losses, two have come in the past week to North Carolina schools: Wake Forest Tuesday night and N.C. State last Wednesday. The Blue Devils' previous in-state foe prior to the Wolfpack blowout was at North Carolina, and had it not been for the heroics of Tre Jones and Wendell Moore Jr., Duke could easily be sitting at 1-3 against schools in its home state.
These teams aren’t supposed to be tough competition, either, as the Tar Heels and Demon Deacons represent the bottom two teams in the ACC, respectively. With rematches against N.C. State and North Carolina coming up, we shall see how seriously Duke comes out for these in-state rivalry contests.
Three key stats:
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113 points allowed
Double overtime or not, allowing 113 points is an astounding number, and is almost literally unheard of—it ties the most points a Krzyzewski-led team has ever given up in a single game. For a Blue Devil squad that hopes to be built around defense, there was none to be seen Tuesday night, as all of Wake Forest’s starters scored upward of 15 points, paced by the 49 combined points from juniors Olivier Sarr and Chaundee Brown. Much of this scoring was done early on without the contributions of Childress, who missed his first 10 shots before catching fire in overtime to finish with 17 points.
34 fouls resulting in 50 free throws
A large contribution toward the absurd Wake Forest point total was the equally-shocking number of free throws the Blue Devils allowed. The Demon Deacons entered the contest averaging under 24 free throw attempts per game, but were able to more than double that amount by forcing Duke into near-constant fouls. With Blue Devil big men Vernon Carey Jr., Justin Robinson and Javin DeLaurier all fouling out, the Demon Deacons capitalized on the opportunity and wreaked havoc in the paint all night long.
Zero made field goals in double overtime
Despite the terrible ending to regulation, Duke did manage to erase a four-point deficit with 23 seconds left in the first overtime, thanks to a huge 3-pointer by junior Alex O’Connell and two Jones free throws. The Blue Devils had momentarily regained some of the momentum, with the game essentially reset at the start of double overtime.
Instead of finishing the deal, however, Duke fell flat on its face and was outscored 16-4 in the period. In embarrassing fashion, the Blue Devils failed to make a single field goal during double overtime, only scoring on a pair of trips to the charity stripe.
If Duke hopes to be a real contender this year, it must truly learn from games like these. If N.C. State was supposed to be a wake-up call, this game is surely a blaring fire alarm. With just three games left in their regular season slate, the Blue Devils must string together victories to establish some momentum going into the ACC tournament.