WINSTON-SALEM, N.C.—While the drive to Winston-Salem was short for the Blue Devils, it turned out to be a long night for Wake Forest.
For the second straight game, Duke rode gritty defense and superb efficiency from Matthew Hurt to embarrass an ACC opponent on its home floor, dominating Wake Forest 84-60 Wednesday night in LJVM Coliseum. The Blue Devils shot 54.1% from the field and assisted on 17 of their 33 field goals.
"[We] had two great days [of practice] where these guys are working so hard, and then it translated tonight," head coach Mike Krzyzewski said. ".... We're getting contributions from everybody, so really good performance by our kids."
Hurt totaled 22 points on 8-of-9 shooting in yet another near-perfect effort for the sophomore forward, while DJ Steward added 16 points and Mark Williams contributed nine points, seven rebounds and two blocks.
One sequence near the 13-minute mark of the second half summed up the night. With Duke already holding a 60-37 advantage, Jordan Goldwire penetrated and found Williams all alone in the paint. The senior guard shoveled the ball to his freshman counterpart, and Williams jammed home an earth-shattering dunk to put an exclamation point on a season sweep of the Demon Deacons, drawing a foul in the process.
The Blue Devils were a bit sluggish offensively in the first few minutes, but the bench trifecta of Goldwire, Joey Baker and Jaemyn Brakefield helped right the ship. Goldwire provided his usual suffocating perimeter defense and had command of the offense, while Brakefield and Baker showed off some stellar off-ball motion and knockdown shooting.
Goldwire, Baker and Brakefield combined for 24 points on the night, providing a spark that extended to the Blue Devil sideline. Duke (9-8, 7-6 in the ACC) turned an 8-8 deadlock into a 29-13 lead as a result of the tenacity brought by that second unit in the first half.
"Everyone who played really helped us," Krzyzewski said. "Jaemyn's got that explosion...Goldwire has been a key guy too for us, because when you can bring a veteran—who's a starter—but bring him off the bench, he's really our best athlete on the perimeter and he's sharing the ball."
Wake Forest (6-10, 3-10) threw the kitchen sink at the Blue Devils to try and get back into the game, but nothing seemed to work. Going to a 2-3 zone for the final few minutes of the opening period couldn’t stymie Duke’s efficiency and transition effectiveness, and Jeremy Roach and Steward handled Wake Forest’s pressure perfectly. By the time halftime arrived, the Blue Devils had stretched their lead to 45-26.
The Demon Deacons’ travails were worsened when head coach Steve Forbes was ejected for yelling at the officials during a Duke fastbreak late in the first half. The Blue Devils had already seized the momentum and possessed a 36-22 lead at that point, but Forbes getting thrown out of the game acted as the final nail in the coffin for Wake Forest.
Throughout the first half, Duke got after it in the hustle department, diving all over the floor, collecting steals with ease and crashing the offensive glass. The Blue Devils totaled 11 offensive boards on the night thanks to Brakefield, Williams and some assistance from the wings.
Duke also held Wake Forest in check from outside, a major area of concern entering the contest. The Demon Deacons shot 48.1% from downtown in a near-upset victory against No. 16 Florida State Saturday, so keeping Wake Forest from getting into a rhythm from beyond the arc was a goal for the Blue Devil guards prior to the game.
"That was our focus coming in," Steward said on the Blue Devils defending the 3-point line. "We know they have a lot of good shooters in [Daivien] Williamson, [Jonah] Antonio and [Carter] Whitt. They're gonna make shots eventually, but we just shut them down pretty much."
If there were any questions surrounding whether the Demon Deacons would hang around, Hurt swiftly silenced them at the start of the final 20 minutes. Duke’s leading scorer was up to his usual tricks in Winston-Salem, capitalizing on a clear height advantage over Wake Forest forward Isaiah Mucius to convert on some patented high-post and long-distance jumpers.
"My teammates did a great job of opening me up, giving me the ball where I wanted it and I just made the shots," Hurt said. "So I give all the credit to my teammates and my coaching staff."
Next on the docket for Duke is a date with No. 7 Virginia in Cameron Indoor Stadium Saturday night, a matchup that could be the Blue Devils’ final chance at a ranked win this season.
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Max Rego is a Trinity junior and sports managing editor for The Chronicle's 117th volume.