Revenge is a dish best served cold.
In a Tuesday appetizer to Saturday’s showdown with North Carolina, the Blue Devils cleaned their plates, holding on late for a 75-73 victory against Wake Forest in Cameron Indoor Stadium. Backcourt mates Jeremy Roach and Tyrese Proctor accounted for 21 and 17 points, respectively, as Duke made up for its Dec. 20 road loss to the Demon Deacons in front of an energized home crowd.
"We did enough definitely to put ourselves in a position to win, so, proud of our team and I think we're getting better," head coach Jon Scheyer said. "The competition will continue to go up but, like what we're doing and we'll continue to build and go from here."
After Wake Forest went on a 12-2 run to cut the Duke lead to 70-66 with 1:23 to play, the Blue Devils (16-6, 7-4 in the ACC) turned to Kyle Filipowski to ice it. The freshman, who notched another double-double with 16 points and 11 rebounds, drained a triple from the top of the key off a perfect dish from Proctor.
Duke led 73-66, and a Filipowski slam a few seconds later put an exclamation point on this one.
"When he shot the three, I felt really good about it," Scheyer said. "It was a great extra pass from Tyrese and [Kyle's] a winner. That's the biggest thing I can say about him."
With Duke leading 41-34 at the intermission, the contest reached a fork in the road. The Blue Devils could either extend their advantage, or the Demon Deacons (14-9, 6-6), led by dynamic point guard Tyree Appleby, could creep back into it.
Well, Wake Forest went cold at the start of the second half, scoring just two points over the first four minutes and change. Duke, clearly sensing a chance to go for the kill, took advantage in a big way, with Tyrese Proctor seizing control of the contest. The Aussie guard nailed a triple from the left corner to stretch the Blue Devil lead to 12, then followed a nifty finger roll from Appleby by splitting a pair of defenders and tossing it up to Dereck Lively II.
The freshman center jammed home the lob, sending Section 17 into a frenzy and forcing Wake Forest head coach Steve Forbes to call timeout with the Blue Devils leading 48-36.
"Me and Tyrese, we got a little connection for sure," Lively said. "And he's able to look at me for lobs, I'm able to hit him on little kick-outs for threes, and we know, we just find each other open. We able to get a look at our eyes, and that's all we need."
Yet Appleby and the Demon Deacons, much like their response after a sluggish start to the first half, sprung up off the mat. The 6-foot guard, who entered the contest as the ACC assists leader, started a 13-7 Wake Forest run by banking in a long two over Roach, and with Duke getting into a bit of foul trouble (Proctor, Roach, Filipowski and Lively all had three fouls by the under-eight media timeout), its lead was cut to 55-49.
But Proctor and Roach steadied things from there, as the rookie hit a run-ending trey off an inbound play and the captain scored on consecutive trips. Just like that, it was a 13-point lead for the Blue Devils.
"They've done a great job of playing off one another, building the chemistry, it's their first year doing it.... They're learning each other's strengths, but the main thing is to be aggressive, attack. I'll put those two guys up against anybody," Scheyer said on the Proctor-Roach duo.
Duke came out of the gates firing on all cylinders, and Roach and Lively were why. The junior guard drilled a triple from the left wing to give the Blue Devils their first lead of the evening, then Lively went to work. After Roach misfired from downtown on Duke’s ensuing trip, Lively, leveraging his 7-foot-1 frame, corralled the rebound and slammed it home. Then, the Philadelphia native, guarding Wake Forest guard Cameron Hildreth on a switch, got a piece of the Englishman's 3-point attempt.
Roach capped the sequence with a midrange pull-up, and Duke had an early 8-2 edge. But Wake Forest obviously did not hear a bell, as 3-point sharpshooter Damari Monsanto and freshman Bobi Klintman nailed triples of their own, cutting the Duke lead to 12-11 in the process.
After Roach hit his second triple to make it 18-13 Blue Devils, Appleby responded with a personal 8-0 run, hitting a tough runner plus the foul, a fadeaway corner triple and picking up a steal and breakaway slam to force Scheyer to burn his first timeout.
On the night, Appleby led both teams in scoring with 27 (in 38 minutes), keeping Wake Forest afloat.
"He's a tough match, just fighting through screens all the time. He can shoot it, he can handle it, he's quick, definitely one of the toughest matchups in the ACC," Roach said. "But I'm up for the challenge, and I think we had a hell of a matchup today."
The officiating crew called a tight first half, as by the six-minute mark, both clubs were in the bonus. Duke attempted 15 free throws in the first half, while Wake Forest attempted seven.
The last of those trips to the charity stripe came when graduate center Ryan Young, in heavy traffic, snagged an offensive board off a Filipowski miss and got the ensuing layup to go off the glass—plus the foul. That three-point play finished off a 9-2 Blue Devil surge to end the half, a run that was spearheaded by Roach.
"That's when we've been at our best, when he's just playing instinctually and playing aggressive...." Scheyer said on Roach's importance. "We weren't in a great flow, offensively, and Jeremy was the guy that kept us going, I just, I liked the look that he had."
The Virginian, who struggled in Duke’s road loss to Wake Forest last month to the tune of nine points on 3-of-8 from the floor with two assists against five turnovers, had his most prolific half as a Blue Devil. Going 7-of-10 from the field, Roach took advantage of off-ball screens brilliantly and entered the locker room with 17 points and no turnovers.
"Kinda wanted to come out, set the tone, be aggressive, be aggressive early," Roach said on his mindset early. "That was the biggest thing, I think, just me setting the tone early kind of let us [keep] control of the game."
Entering the night, the Blue Devils sat in seventh in the conference standings, with the Demon Deacons right behind them in eighth. Now, the Blue Devils are tied with N.C. State for sixth in the ACC, just a half game behind Miami for fifth.
Next up for Duke is the long-awaited first date with North Carolina of the season, as the programs will meet for the first time since the Tar Heels ended the Blue Devils’ season in the Final Four last April. The contest is set for a 6:30 p.m. tip on ESPN.
Roach, who said the Tar Heel win in New Orleans adds "some extra juice" to Saturday, noted that "it's always a battle, it's always a war," when it comes to facing North Carolina.
"I've been in a lot of these games, fortunately. It's a special game to be a part of, they're really good, but for us, we'll take it day by day," Scheyer added.
Get The Chronicle straight to your inbox
Signup for our weekly newsletter. Cancel at any time.
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.