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WAKE-UP CALL: Duke men’s basketball stunned by late Wake Forest rally

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C.—Regular season play is coming to a close for Duke, yet it is still struggling to learn a simple lesson: you can’t come unprepared for any ACC game.

Despite holding a nine-point lead with 1:21 remaining in the second half, No. 7 Duke collapsed late against Wake Forest Tuesday night in LJVM Coliseum. The 113-101 loss is now the Blue Devils’ second straight defeat on the road after falling to North Carolina State last week.

With the intense game rolling along in double overtime, Duke seemed to run out of gas as the Demon Deacons scored the first seven points of the second extra frame. The Blue Devils failed to connect on a field goal in the period and Wake Forest rose to every challenge, dominating the final minutes for its first ranked win of the year.

“We didn’t make the right plays at the end and let them back into it," sophomore point guard Tre Jones said. "Then it was back and forth from there. In double overtime they found a lead and put us away.”

Though it seemed like Duke had control in the dwindling minutes of regulation, Wake Forest used everything it had in the tank to give the Blue Devils a game. Duke led by just three with 31 seconds to play, when Jordan Goldwire turned the ball over and Childress hit a 3-pointer. The next Duke possession resulted in an offensive foul to give the Demon Deacons the shot for the win.

Childress’ ensuing leaner missed at the buzzer, sending the game to overtime.

“At the end of the game, the last minute, we just gave the ball up," head coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "There’s no excuse for the two turnovers we had. You’ve got to be strong with the ball, and they took advantage.”

With a one-point lead and less than a minute to play in the first overtime, Childress absorbed contact from Justin Robinson and finished the basket and ensuing free throw, giving the Demon Deacons a four-point lead. 

Thanks to a 3-pointer from Alex O’Connell, the Blue Devils had a chance late to tie the game with 11 seconds to play and Jones connected on two free throws to even the score at 97. Cassius Stanley’s halfcourt heave at the buzzer fell just short and Duke would go to double overtime for the first time this season.

Facing an overtime period with big men Vernon Carey Jr. and Javin DeLaurier fouled out, the teams traded baskets before Jones came up with a crucial block and dish to Wendell Moore Jr. for an and-one opportunity. However, Childress finally broke through late in the game with clutch jumpers to give Wake Forest a one-point lead with two minutes left in the extra period. The conference foes then traded scoring possessions back and forth in a tense atmosphere. 

“It’s more of him being a veteran," Krzyzewski emphasized on Childress heating up late. "He has played well over 100 games for Wake Forest and four seasons of ACC play. He’s a veteran, and he’s a great kid and a great competitor. The fact that he had not scored and then scored does not surprise me, because that’s what really good competitors do.”

Depth was once again a major factor in the scoring department for Duke as Carey, Jones, Stanley and Moore all paced the Blue Devils with double-digit scoring efforts on the road. The Demon Deacons turned to freshman Jahcobi Neath's career night for much of regulation, yet it was Chaundee Brown and Olivier Sarr who came through for the hosts with 24 and 25 points, respectively. 

For yet another road contest, Duke (23-5, 13-4 in ACC) came out of the gates looking more like an NIT team than a top-10 unit. Wake Forest's zone defense kept the Blue Devils out of the paint and even without a raucous crowd on hand, the visitors were clearly the more sluggish of the two teams. With six minutes left in the half, the underdog Demon Deacons (12-15, 5-12) quietly found themselves with a 12-point lead.

“We’ve just got to control what we can control, and we didn’t do a good job of that," senior Jack White said. "We’ve got to put together 40 minutes on the road, every time. No matter what team it is, home or away, whatever the case. We’ve got to win that game at the end of the day.”

With Krzyzewski mixing and matching the usual 10 players in the rotation, it wasn't until he looked to graduate student captain and former walk-on Justin Robinson that Duke finally woke up. Behind experienced minutes from Robinson, the Blue Devils erased the deficit, including Jones capping the first frame with a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to equalize the score at 39 a piece. 

“Always be ready," Robinson said on his attitude. "When I heard my name called I had to go out and fight and do what I could to affect the game.”

After a scorching performance as a team from beyond the arc Saturday against Virginia Tech, the Blue Devils struggled to shoot the 3-pointer against the Demon Deacons' quick defense, connecting on just 6-of-23 attempts. Duke's offense with Carey on the bench still felt forced and disorganized.

“You’ve just got to keep your head up," White said. "As much as this sucks, it’s only one game at the end of the day. We can’t just be walking around with our heads low over one game. Just like if you win big, you have to move on. If we lose like this, we have to move on.”

Next, the Blue Devils will travel to Charlottesville, Va., to take on Virginia Saturday at 6 p.m. before finishing out their regular season at home against N.C. State and North Carolina, respectively.

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