Big Mark makes big plays: A look into Mark Williams’ dominant performance against Wake Forest

History repeats itself. Or at least that’s what tends to happen.

The ninth-ranked Duke Blue Devils were silenced by a last-second loss to Virginia in their last home game, but Tuesday night the Blue Devils were able to claim victory in Cameron Indoor Stadium against Wake Forest with Mark Williams’ last-second putback dunk.

The 7-foot-1 center’s dunk was poetry in motion, especially when you consider the adversity the Blue Devils faced with head coach Mike Krzyzewski missing the second half of the game due to an illness. 

Yet, with 17.5 seconds left on the game clock, associate head coach Jon Scheyer drew up a play that sealed the 76-74 win against the Demon Deacons: Paolo Banchero inbounded the ball to AJ Griffin, who passed it back to Banchero. Banchero ran up the ball to Duke’s half and quickly utilized a Griffin screen to change defenders. With Wake Forest’s Jake LaRavia on him, Banchero executed a quick crossover that gave him leeway to drive toward the basket, releasing a right-handed layup with 1.6 seconds left. 

With only 0.6 seconds left on the clock, it felt like time was in slow motion as the ball clanked against the rim. Yet, under the rim was Williams who sprung over a Wake Forest defender to hammer down a two-handed dunk that led to an eruption the chants from the Cameron Crazies with only 0.4 seconds left—a celebratory atmosphere that persisted even as fans exited the stadium. 

“Obviously, we knew we wanted to get the last shot [so that] worst-case scenario, it would’ve gone to overtime. [Banchero] put it up, missed, and I just got the putback. I didn’t think it was goaltending. I thought I got it off the rim,” said Williams. “I saw the one [replay] angle behind the backboard—that was probably the best angle. That was clearly off [the rim]. It was a good game, a little scary, obviously. But we found a way to win back at home, so that was the most important thing.”

Yet, Williams’ contribution to the win wasn’t just his last-second dunk. All throughout the game, the Virginia Beach, Va., native consistently made tough field goals and also memorably swatted a shot into the stands as if he was spiking a volleyball. In such a close game, Williams put up Duke game-highs of 16 points and 10 rebounds followed by one assist and one block. Especially when it came to offense, Williams showed his efficiency by going 8-of-11 on field goals in the paint. Despite similarly lengthy opponents, Williams was able to control the paint, being a physical force who also muscled his way to four offensive rebounds. 

As for Williams' frontcourt mate and freshman superstar Paolo Banchero, he had a period when he dominated the floor, putting up 13 points. However, the spotlight of the game is still on the Williams, who sealed the deal for the Blue Devils. 

“We got what we wanted—we had Paolo [Banchero] going downhill for a great look. I thought the layup was going to go in," Moore said. "I was kind of right in there, too, for the tip-in but big fella [Williams] came in and dunked it. He brought us home, like he did all game."

As such, the Blue Devils were able to stretch their home win streak against the Demon Deacons to 23 and maintain their first seed in ACC standings. Duke will look to carry this momentum Saturday in its next match-up against Florida State in Cameron Indoor Stadium.  


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