'Building the chemistry': Duke men's basketball displays trust to overcome Appleby, Wake Forest

Kyle Filipowski celebrates a late 3-pointer that essentially sealed the win for Duke.
Kyle Filipowski celebrates a late 3-pointer that essentially sealed the win for Duke.

The final score was close—but despite the similarity in points, the two teams on Coach K Court could not have looked any more different Tuesday night.

Duke made it out alive against Wake Forest 75-73, earning its revenge after a loss back in December on the road in Winston-Salem. The win was another example of Duke’s players making each other better, and the home team traded its moments to shine with Wake Forest, whose effort was more singular.

For Wake Forest, the offensive success mainly revolved around graduate guard Tyree Appleby, who had 27 of his team's 73 points; the closest person behind him was Damari Monsanto with 14. Appleby was on the court for more than 38 minutes, and when asked why, head coach Steve Forbes cited the season-ending injury of sophomore Jao Ituka and posed what was, perhaps, a damning question for the Demon Deacons: “What are the other options?”

There was no shortage of energy on Duke’s roster, though. The Blue Devils had three players score 16 points or more, including a career-high-matching 17 points for Tyrese Proctor and 21 points for Jeremy Roach, just one short of his personal best. Like against Georgia Tech, Roach and Proctor fed off of each other, with Proctor—a “smart player that makes things easier,” head coach Jon Scheyer said after the game—creating opportunities for Roach to burst into “attack mode,” where Scheyer says Duke needs him.

“They’ve done a great job of playing off one another, building the chemistry,” Scheyer said of Roach and Proctor. “… They’re learning each other’s strengths, but the main thing is to be aggressive and attack. You know, I’ll put those two guys up against anybody.”

“When he’s going, I’m trying to find him; when I’m going, he’s trying to find me,” Proctor said of Roach. “We’re playing off each other, and we’re both confident in one another. We’re just trusting each other and just playing hoops.”

Proctor’s chemistry extended beyond that with his fellow playmaker Roach. Right from the tipoff, he was able to incorporate freshman bigs Dereck Lively II and Kyle Filipowski, the former slamming down a few big-time dunks that earned a loud response from the Cameron Crazies.

“It just comes from day after day, just being in the gym together, being able to know each other’s games, know each other’s timings and just making sure that we know where everybody is going to be in which spots so that we can score,” Lively said of his connection with Proctor.

For the Blue Devil faithful, ultimately, the last two appearances have been refreshing performances from Duke, showcasing the full trust the team has in each other instead of relying on 29-point standout nights from Filipowski and the like to stay in the game.

Wake Forest took 31 shots from beyond the arc, compared to just 17 attempts from Duke. The Demon Deacons were forced to work from the 3-point line early as the size advantages of Lively and Filipowski made it hard for guards to drive into and finish in the paint, a mismatch that kept sophomore guard Cameron Hildreth scoreless for 15 straight minutes in the first half. On top of the offensive setup, the success varied as well between the two teams; Duke exited with a formidable 50% field goal percentage, while Wake Forest sat at only 37.5%.

“I think we got some wide-open looks, too, that we just didn’t make,” Forbes said after the game. “ … Even [Monsanto], I think he was shocked that he was so wide open that he shot a damn airball. We ran a gate play, we ran a double screen; it wasn’t like Duke just ignored him. We did a good job of executing, and he just shot an airball.”

Forbes pointed out that one of the big differences in success for the two teams was the eight-minute stretch spanning the end of the first half and the beginning of the second. He noted several Wake Forest turnovers, as well as poor shooting to start the second half and the slew of threes Duke hit going into the break as part of the reason for the home team’s double-digit lead. It marked just one of many instances when the momentum between the two teams seesawed back and forth, with Wake Forest most notably lighting up toward the end of the game when they came back from a nine-point deficit to lose by just two thanks to a stellar few minutes from Appleby.

Now, the path forward looks different for both teams. On a four-game losing streak during which each game has been decided by single digits, Wake Forest will look to change the tone and prove itself as an ACC contender. For Duke, a Saturday matchup against North Carolina looms after a devastating Final Four loss in April. But maybe Duke and Wake Forest have one thing in common going into their next games: a chance for redemption.

Leah Boyd profile
Leah Boyd

Leah Boyd is a Pratt senior and a social chair of The Chronicle's 118th volume. She was previously editor-in-chief for Volume 117.


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