5 observations from No. 8 Duke men's basketball's first half against Wake Forest

Caleb Foster pulls up for a 3-point jumper against Wake Forest.
Caleb Foster pulls up for a 3-point jumper against Wake Forest.

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C.—In the final game of its three-game road trip, No. 8 Duke made the short journey to Winston Salem for a battle against Wake Forest. The Blue Devils and Demon Deacons have gone toe-to-toe in a gritty first half, with the visitors holding a 38-36 lead at the break:

On the go

Winston-Salem is stop No. 3 for the Blue Devils in a week; they tackled Florida schools last Saturday and Wednesday and are now on the road for their third game in a row. A sold-out LJVM Coliseum was clearly excited to welcome Duke, and clearly hoping to see it lose. As the stadium announcer called out Wake Forest’s starting five (and the Demon Deacon rode onto the court on a motorcycle) the lights dimmed, and every arm in the stadium waved a flashlight so that the arena lit up like a night sky.

The Blue Devils have fared well on the road since their loss to North Carolina at the beginning of the month — in fact, they haven’t lost at all, even in packed and hostile environments. But the Demon Deacons flaunt an undefeated home record (14-0) for the season, giving them the 2.5-point edge, according to the betting books. That edge was visible as the conference rivals battled out the first half and kept it close for the whole ride.

Stopping Sallis

Hunter Sallis was clearly the Deacon to defend from the start. The junior guard leads Wake Forest in scoring with 18.3 points per game, an average he didn’t hesitate to get cracking on as soon as his team won the tipoff. His early points came from two-point jumpers all over the court, as he cut out the trouble of dealing with Kyle Filipowski and Mark Mitchell in the paint by simply launching the ball over their heads. He snagged his first trey 11 minutes into the game, taking it in the elbow and knocking it down to close Duke’s lead to just two points. Moments later, Sallis took the ball down the court and passed it to Kevin Miller, who launched a similar triple and won the Demon Deacons an edge.

Sallis’ board collection was electric, too, especially on defense, making him a threat on both ends of the court. At the end of the first period, he had 5 rebounds with his 14 points.

Shooting from deep

Wake Forest put up a citadel of a defense down low, spearheaded by big men Andrew Carr (6-foot-11) and Efton Reid III (7-foot). The pair made paint points tricky for the Blue Devils, so Duke turned to its old friend — the arc. Caleb Foster, Jared McCain and Tyrese Proctor took turns downtown, clinching nine combined points in early minutes to kickstart Duke’s lead. Both Foster and Proctor scored sequel shots too, so that nearly half of the team’s 38 first-half points came from downtown.

Despite poise from deep, the Blue Devils struggled to fight Wake Forest’s defense. Mitchell and Filipowski both missed layups thanks to aggressive rim protection from the home team. This became increasingly evident as the half wound down and Mitchell missed back-to-back dunk attempts. On the first one, he drew a foul, but missed a charity shot, and on his second attempt, he was the one with a foul.

Foul trouble

Senior guard Jeremy Roach took the bench early in the game after racking up two fouls right off the bat. He started a trend amongst the Blue Devils, who combined for nine team fouls while Wake Forest tallied five. Graduate center Ryan Young got himself in even more trouble than Roach after his third foul late in the half put him resolutely on Duke’s bench; Mitchell didn’t fare much better, with two fouls of his own. The period ended with two shots from the stripe for the Demon Deacons, who got nine opportunities at the free-throw line and capitalized on six of them.

Player of the half: Caleb Foster

Foster’s effect on the court came right as head coach Jon Scheyer subbed him in for Roach: He drained a three, then followed it with an assist. His second trey came at the tail end of the half, giving Duke a necessary boost right as the Demon Deacons crept up on its lead. Between triples, Foster nailed a jumper and grabbed three important defensive rebounds that helped the Blue Devils with some of the eight second-chance points it earned in the first period. Despite pushy defense from his hosts, Foster limited his turnover count to one, impressive in the face of players far older and bigger than the 6-foot-5 freshman guard.


Sophie Levenson | Sports features editor

Sophie Levenson is a Trinity sophomore and sports features editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.

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