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5 observations from Duke men's basketball's first half against Wake Forest

On the road in Winston-Salem, N.C., for its first ACC road game of the season, No. 14 Duke started slow against Wake Forest before the break. With 20 minutes to play at Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum, the Blue Devils trail 39-30.

Shorthanded starters

Just hours before Tuesday’s 6:30 p.m. tipoff, Duke announced that freshmen Dariq Whitehead and Dereck Lively II would be held out with “non-COVID illness.” Both players missed Duke’s season opener nursing preseason injuries, and both players have played some of their best basketball in recent outings. Lively started nine games in a row before Tuesday, while Whitehead excelled in his first start last time out for the Blue Devils.

With the 7-foot-1 Lively out of the starting lineup, graduate student Ryan Young stepped in at center, bringing back Duke’s early-season starting five for the first time since Nov. 15. The veteran was solid on both ends early, but—rather uncharacteristically—left something to be desired on the glass. The Demon Deacons dominated the boards in the opening minutes, taking advantage of second chances and jumping out to an 11-4 lead. 

Roach in

With Whitehead and Lively sidelined, junior captain Jeremy Roach returned for the Blue Devils’ after missing his team’s Dec. 10 win against Maryland Eastern Shore with a lingering toe injury. The preseason All-ACC First Team selection looked healthy in his first game in two weeks, but it was nonetheless a struggle for him in his first half back on the court: Roach was held scoreless on four shots, while leading scorer Kyle Filipowski checks in with five points on 2-of-7 shooting at the halfway point.

Holding steady

One might have expected Duke head coach Jon Scheyer to dip a bit deeper into his bench than usual with two rotation players unavailable, but there were few substitutions that were out of the ordinary for the Blue Devils in the first 20 minutes. 

Scheyer went to freshman sharpshooter Jaden Schutt in the first half against Maryland Eastern Shore in Roach’s absence, but only seven Blue Devils have entered the action so far in Tuesday’s game. Duke’s two players off the bench, Jacob Grandison and Jaylen Blakes, have both made an impact, combining for 12 points and giving the Blue Devils a necessary spark in what has been a struggle on the offensive end for the visiting side.

Work to do

In their first game in 10 days, the Blue Devils have looked far from their best against the Demon Deacons. There is some undeniable rust in the air, but the fact of the matter is that Duke is within striking distance after being thoroughly outmatched for 20 minutes. A strong closing sequence has Duke in position to make a second-half run; if they get more on the offensive end from Roach and Filipowski and improve on their 3-of-15 mark from 3-point range, the Blue Devils’ winning streak could still reach five games. 

Player of the half: Jacob Grandison

It was not quite a mind-blowing half for Grandison, who finished with a modest—yet important—five points in 11 minutes off the bench. The graduate wing stabilized things for Duke after a shaky opening sequence, entering the game and giving the Blue Devils a simple, effective scoring punch that they desperately needed in the moment. Thanks to Grandison’s play, Duke has a fighting chance on the road in the second half, even without its best basketball or full roster.

Jonathan Levitan

Jonathan Levitan is a Trinity senior and was previously sports editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.


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