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X-Factor: AJ Griffin’s distance shooting can help Duke men's basketball past Alondes Williams, Wake Forest

AJ Griffin has the highest mark from three of any Blue Devil.
AJ Griffin has the highest mark from three of any Blue Devil.

Duke men's basketball continues its busy week with a home matchup against Wake Forest Tuesday, the teams' second meeting this season. In anticipation, the Blue Zone brings both a Blue Devil and a Demon Deacon that can be the difference-maker come Tuesday night:

Duke: AJ Griffin

The freshman forward made his first career start the last time Duke faced Wake Forest—and played lights out. Griffin shot 83.3% from within the arc and 60% from beyond it, scoring a then-career-high of 22 points to lead the Blue Devils to a 76-64 victory. 

A month has passed since Griffin faced the Demon Deacons, and he certainly has proven his star potential throughout that time, starting each of the Blue Devils’ nine games since the matchup  and rightfully so. Duke’s most reliable 3-point threat, Griffin is shooting 48.8% from distance, the highest mark of any player in the ACC who has played more than 20 games and is averaging at least two 3-point attempts per game. 

Although the score will tell you the Blue Devils easily dealt with the Demon Deacons the last time, the game was neck-and-neck for the first half as Duke struggled to pull commandingly ahead. Wake Forest has proved, with key wins against Florida State and Virginia—two teams Duke failed to close the game on—that they have the potential to pull out a victory this Tuesday. As the Demon Deacons come into Cameron Indoor Stadium looking to rebuild their win streak after a tough loss to Miami, Duke must look to Griffin’s explosive offensive abilities for the energy and momentum to pull ahead. 

Wake Forest: Alondes Williams

The graduate student has exploded as of late, leading the Demon Deacons in scoring over the past three games. Williams dominates the rim: 57.4% of his field goal attempts come from in the paint or under the rim, where he shoots 64.1%, and over 76% of his 2-pointers are unassisted. His excellence from that range has helped lead the Demon Deacons offense to national recognition, where they rank in the top-15 in both 2-point shooting and effective shooting. 

Williams has been nothing short of excellent in all facets of the game since he transferred to Wake Forest from Oklahoma. As of Feb. 10, the guard was one of only two players in the ACC to lead their team in both points, rebounds and assists, and is the only player in the nation averaging 19 points, six rebounds and five assists per game. 

In his last matchup against the Blue Devils, Williams demonstrated this versatility. In his 36 minutes played, the most by a Demon Deacon that game, Williams led the team in points and assists, with 25 and four respectively, and had seven rebounds. To succeed in their second date with Wake Forest, Duke must seek to minimize Williams’ impact on the game in all three facets or it may face yet another ACC upset at home. 

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