LOST IN THE FOREST: Shorthanded Duke men's basketball falls on the road to Wake Forest in return to action

Duke suffered its first ACC loss Tuesday evening at Wake Forest.
Duke suffered its first ACC loss Tuesday evening at Wake Forest.

Shorthanded, the Blue Devils left Winston-Salem, N.C., empty-handed. 

In its first ACC road contest under head coach Jon Scheyer, No. 14 Duke clearly missed freshmen Dereck Lively II and Dariq Whitehead en route to a 81-70 loss to Wake Forest in Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum Tuesday. Without its highly touted rookie duo, which missed the contest due to a “non-COVID illness”, Duke shot just 44.1% from the field, 29.6% from three and turned it over 13 times, failing to win its fifth-straight despite the return of junior captain Jeremy Roach and a career-high 17 points from Jaylen Blakes.

"Credit Wake, they outplayed us, they were the hungrier team and I thought their sense of urgency coming off their game on Saturday, you could really tell, and for us, we didn't have that," Scheyer said, referring to the Demon Deacons' 81-57 road loss to Rutgers over the weekend.

Leading 39-30 entering the final 20 minutes, Wake Forest, led by standout point guard Tyree Appleby and the versatile Cameron Hildreth, embarked on a 14-8 run to start the half. From there, Duke (10-3, 1-1 in the ACC) was playing from substantially behind the rest of the night. Add in a rough evening for Roach (nine points on 3-of-7 from the field), who was making his return after missing one game due to a right toe injury, and an upset was in store. 

For a flash, the Blue Devils threatened to charge back into it, with three straight wing triples, one from Tyrese Proctor and two from Blakes, cutting the Wake Forest edge to 62-55. Yet Appleby, who was top-three in the ACC in points (18) and assists (5.1) per contest entering Tuesday, controlled the tempo the rest of the way.

"In the second half, we took a punch to the canvas there in about nine minutes, but we came right back," Wake Forest head coach Steve Forbes said. "We didn't fold, and we've had some moments where we've teetered and we didn't finish and tonight was a great example of finishing."

Appleby had a lot to do with that ability to finish, as the Florida transfer ended with 18 points—including 13-of-14 from the charity stripe—and eight assists, giving the Demon Deacons a huge boost despite his eight turnovers.

"We knew that Appleby coming in was going to be able, he's a really good distributor... obviously he's a good player, and they were able to get a few lobs like that," Young said on Appleby's ability to attack and dish. 

Trailing 11-4 just after the under-16 timeout, the Blue Devils needed a spark. And similar to their most recent contest, an 82-55 win against Maryland Eastern Shore, it came via the second unit. First, it was graduate wing Jacob Grandison, who hit a turnaround midrange jumper to cut into the Demon Deacon lead. Then, Blakes got a putback to go off a Roach miss, and two possessions later, Grandison nailed a corner triple via a picturesque skip pass from his junior point guard. 

Just a few possessions later, with Wake Forest (9-4, 1-1) leading 14-12, Blakes started an even more impressive individual display. In the span of just more than three minutes, the New Jersey native  picked up a rejection, set up Mark Mitchell for a wide-open triple with a terrific wraparound pass and converted a steal into a dunk to make it 21-17 Demon Deacons. 

The sophomore guard was everywhere and, quite frankly, saved the Blue Devils for stretches of the opening period. He even drilled a trey from the left corner to cut Wake Forest’s lead to 26-21, after Young was doubled in the post and kicked it out. 

Scheyer credited the Blakes after the contest, saying he "really guarded and gave us great energy," and, along with Young, "set a great example" for the rest of the roster.

But Wake Forest was simply the more efficient offense in the first half, going 4-of-9 from downtown and sporting eight players with at least one made field goal. Even without stellar scoring numbers from Appleby (five points on 1-of-4 from the field in the opening period), the Demon Deacons got key contributions from Hildreth, Matthew Marsh, Andrew Carr and Daivien Williamson (off the bench), as that quartet accounted for 20 of Wake Forest’s 39 points heading into the locker room.

Wake Forest ended up shooting 49.1% from the field and shot 12 more free throws than the Blue Devils, overcoming 15 turnovers of its own along the way.

"They just drove us like crazy," Scheyer said. "They do a good job of moving and spacing, and they just got in our paint at will, and we need to be solid and guard the ball."

Appleby was not dormant early on, either, dicing up the Blue Devils to the tune of five assists, including a lob to Marsh that gave the Demon Deacons a 23-17 lead. Without Lively anchoring the paint, the 7-foot-1 Marsh went to work, converting all three of his first half field goal attempts and making life difficult for Young and Filipowski. 

"We've played against big teams, I don't think size has affected us too much in the past. I think truly, it was just [that] we came out lethargic tonight, they jumped on us. And we never could dig ourselves out of the hole that we put ourselves in the first half," Young said on the Wake Forest front line, which featured Marsh, 6-foot-10 Carr, 6-foot-10 Bobi Klintman and 7-foot Davion Bradford. 

Filipowski, without his fellow big in Lively, had arguably the worst performance of his young college career in Winston-Salem, shooting just 4-of-14 from the field for a career-low nine points. Proctor also struggled in Whitehead’s absence, scoring six points and connecting on only one triple on five attempts.

Even when Mitchell slammed home a dunk, plus the foul, to make it 31-26, the Demon Deacons responded with jumpers from Carr and Hildreth, who finished with 16 points and nine rebounds. That was a common theme throughout the first half, as every time Duke seemed to establish a bit of mojo, Wake Forest responded. 

The Demon Deacons ended the half leading by nine, marking just the third time Duke had trailed at half all season—the other two instances being in losses to Purdue and Kansas, now ranked No. 1 and No. 4, respectively. 

The loss snaps a four-game win streak against the Demon Deacons, and ends a span of 20 matchups dating back a decade in which the Blue Devils beat their in-state rivals 18 times. Under Forbes, Wake Forest has been a thorn in Duke’s side, nearly mounting a sizable comeback in Cameron Indoor Stadium last season and handing the Blue Devils their third loss of the year this time around.

Now, Duke embarks on another extended break, this time until Dec. 31 at 1 p.m., when it hosts Florida State. Scheyer anticipated that Lively and Whitehead will suit up for that one, saying postgame "we feel they'll be back to practice when we return from Christmas."

Max Rego profile
Max Rego

Max Rego is a Trinity senior and an associate sports editor for The Chronicle's 118th volume. He was previously sports managing editor for Volume 117.


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