Three points: All-around defense, road poise crucial for No. 8 Duke men's basketball against Wake Forest

Duke men's basketball regroups in its game against Miami.
Duke men's basketball regroups in its game against Miami.

Duke men’s basketball will look to finish its three-game road trip undefeated Saturday, as the Blue Devils will travel to Winston-Salem to take on Wake Forest. Before the game, the Blue Zone is here with three keys to a Duke victory:

Cool heads on the road

So far this season, Wake Forest is undefeated in ACC play at home — 7-0. Recently on Tuesday, the Demon Deacons drubbed a hot Pittsburgh team, 91-58. The Blue Devils are no slouch on the road, with a 6-2 record in conference play, but to hand any team its first home loss is a tough task. Additionally, Wake Forest has already proved it can play close with Duke this year — and that game was in Cameron Indoor. The Blue Devils snuck by the Demon Deacons 77-69 Feb. 12 in Durham behind elite play from the trio of Mark Mitchell, Kyle Filipowski and Jared McCain. The three combined for 61 points and 29 rebounds. 

Mitchell and Filipowski have both had mercurial seasons, of high highs, and the lowest of lows for players of their capacity. The frontcourt duo will need to tune out the opposing fans come Saturday, who will always bring their loudest when Duke comes to town.

Defend the 3

In the two squads’ first meeting, Wake Forest shot a paltry 6-of-26 from 3-point territory, well below its season average of 37.3% (the 27th best mark in the nation). So far this year in losses, the Demon Deacons have shot 30.3% from three, which would be one of the worst marks in the country. Head Coach Jon Scheyer will need the defense from beyond the arc to step up and limit Wake Forest’s potency from deep. 

Freshman guard Caleb Foster started over sophomore Tyrese Proctor last time out against Miami, and he may again be called upon to provide solid, if not exceptional, defense against one of the ACC’s top shooters in junior Hunter Sallis. In losses, Sallis specifically is netting threes at a 37.5% clip, below his season mark of 41.8%. If the Blue Devils can keep the Demon Deacons in check from beyond the arc — specifically Sallis — they’ll have a good shot to come away from Winston-Salem victorious, a feat they couldn’t achieve last year.

Paint production

As mentioned, Filipowski and Mitchell accounted for a large tally of Duke’s productivity in its last matchup with Wake Forest. They were freed to dominate the paint after the Demon Deacons’ starting frontcourt of 7-foot Efton Reid III and 6-foot-10 Andrew Carr got into foul trouble early, and both eventually fouled out. The two Wake Forest big men combined for just 20 points and nine rebounds in 44 minutes, a significant difference from their season averages of 22.5 points, 15 rebounds, and three blocks in 58 minutes on the floor per game. 

The Blue Devils cannot rely on fouls from Carr and Reid to take them out of the equation for the end of the game again. In turn, they will need Filipowski and Mitchell to remain productive when they're facing the Demon Deacons’ top big men.


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