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

Jeremy Roach (game-high 17 first-half points) drives past Wake Forest star Tyree Appleby.
Jeremy Roach (game-high 17 first-half points) drives past Wake Forest star Tyree Appleby.

Back on its home court for the first time in 10 days, Duke has stayed tight with Wake Forest through the first 20 minutes and all the way up to the halftime buzzer. With one half left to play, the Blue Devils are up 41-34.

Liven up

The first three minutes of the half were all about Duke freshman Dereck Lively II. The Blue Devils ran their first couple of offensive plays looking for Lively, first from behind the arc and then on a couple of alley-oop attempts. His first points came on a dunk, and he blocked a 3-point attempt by Cameron Hildreth on the next play before being sent to the line on the subsequent fast break. The star freshman was charged with two early fouls, though, so graduate center Ryan Young took over his role for a good chunk of the half; Lively’s only scoring contributions in his return to the floor were a pair of free throws, though his size on defense kept Wake Forest from getting hot inside as the game grew tight.

Closer this time

When Duke last took on Wake Forest in December 2022, the Demon Deacons took an early 11-4 lead and carried most of the momentum throughout the half, ultimately ending the first 20 minutes up 39-30. With the help of the Cameron Crazies, though, the first half of this rematch had a different story to tell. 

Though Wake Forest got on the board first and generally kept within close range of Duke in the opening minutes, Duke maintained the lead for more than 14 minutes of the half. Junior guard Jeremy Roach and Wake Forest’s Tyree Appleby exchanged threes to keep the game neck and neck moving into the last few minutes of the half. That was before more clutch 3-point shooting from Duke, some fast defensive stops and a few foul calls on the Demon Deacons had the Blue Devils looking more comfortable and the Cameron Crazies celebrating as the teams moved into the break.

Strong defense to start

The Blue Devils forced difficult shots throughout the half and kept Wake Forest to 33% shooting through the first eight minutes of play. Freshman center Kyle Filipowski’s 7-foot stature made it difficult for Hildreth to continue driving into the paint and hitting short jumpers; the sophomore guard was kept scoreless for 15 minutes after his opening layup in the first 20 seconds. Duke’s 3-point defense faltered a little as Wake Forest got hot from deep—the Demon Deacons were 5-for-10 from behind the arc after 13 minutes—but early strength on the boards helped ensure that Wake Forest didn’t run away with a sizable lead. Going into Tuesday’s game, Duke was ranked second in the ACC and 30th nationally in scoring defense, with opponents earning just 63.2 points per game against the Blue Devils.

A tale of threes

Duke’s offense opened with a missed trey from Lively—he swished his first career three Saturday against Georgia Tech—but that did not necessarily set the tone for either team. Wake Forest shot 38.5% from behind the arc, just behind Duke’s 42.9%. Because of Duke’s suffocating defense inside, Wake Forest also ran its offense outside the arc much more than Duke did, attempting 13 threes to Duke’s seven. The distribution of 3-point shooters also looked a little different for the two teams; the Demon Deacons had six players who attempted a three, while Duke only had three: Roach, Lively and freshman guard Tyrese Proctor, who nailed 1-of-3 attempts. 

Player of the half: Jeremy Roach

The junior guard came off a strong appearance in Atlanta against Georgia Tech, in which his two quick threes gave Duke the momentum early. He didn’t take his foot off the gas Tuesday, earning 17 points and two assists throughout the half. On top of a few from deep again, he also kept Appleby on his toes by beating him off the dribble and finishing with a couple of pull-up jumpers from the elbow. His performance also represents a turnaround from the last time Duke took on Wake Forest; in the December matchup, Roach had five turnovers and two assists, marking his only game this season with more turnovers than assists.

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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