Lest you think missing 28 3-pointers in a row was rock bottom for Duke’s Jack White, consider the abyss he nearly found himself in Tuesday night.
Wake Forest cut Duke’s lead to 71-70 with seven seconds left at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
White grabbed the ball to in-bound it to RJ Barrett, but stepped on the baseline for a turnover.
White didn’t think he’d hit the line, but the officials ruled he did.
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The gaffe gave Wake Forest a chance to complete an upset win.
Brandon Childress missed a 3-pointer and Chaundee Brown’s putback rolled around the rim and off, allowing Duke to escape with the 71-70 win.
It also allowed White to avoid a catastrophe.
“I don’t think I would have been able to forgive myself if, if we lost,” a stunned but relieved White said after the game.
All the Blue Devils felt similarly relieved after No. 4 Duke (26-4, 14-3) avoided an embarrassing loss to one of the ACC’s worst teams.
Yes, Duke played its fourth game without national player of the year candidate Zion Williamson (sprained knee).
But Wake Forest (11-18, 4-13) played well enough to win against a Duke team that appeared disinterested during the first half. The Demon Deacons found themselves up 10 points when Duke took a timeout with 16:14 to play in regulation.
Duke junior forward Javin DeLaurier, a team captain along with White, admitted panic began to set in.
“It’s 49-39,” DeLaurier said. “We’re all looking at each other. What the heck just happened? C’mon fellas. It’s time to go. A sense of urgency kicked in.”
Duke scored the game’s next 10 points to catch up and the game was nip and tuck until the end.
“I thought in the last 15 minutes of the game, we played better,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said.
No one was bigger than RJ Barrett, who scored 28 points despite turning the ball over seven times and hitting only 6 of 14 free throws.
“He’s beating himself up but he played a great game,” Krzyzewski said. “Without him, forget it. You know, forget it.”
Foul-plagued Cam Reddish hit just two of nine shots to score six points. Junior center Marques Bolden suffered a leg injury that limited him to 18 minutes of play, only two in the second half.
So Duke needed all those Barrett points plus contributions from others like White, Alex O’Connell and Tre Jones.
White did plenty to help Duke win. Though he scored all eight of his points in the first half, he led the Blue Devils with 10 rebounds while also blocking two shots.
He’s climbing back out of a funk.
White’s streak of missed 3-pointers ended when he made three in a row during Duke’s 87-57 wipeout win over Miami at Cameron last Saturday. He extended that pleasant streak to five when he made two 3-pointers in the first half against Wake Forest.
He missed his final three 3-pointers Tuesday night. But he was on the court in the game’s final minutes.
After he messed up the in-bounds play, White defended Brown on his shot at the buzzer. White didn’t block the shot but he had a hand in the way that just maybe, perhaps, did enough that the ball spun off the rim and out rather than falling through the net.
The Blue Devils celebrated the win. White put his hands on his head and stared straight ahead with no smile on his face.
He dodged an embarrassing moment and was ready to look ahead to the rest of March.
“I felt like I rebounded well throughout my time out there on the court,” White said. “I was playing some solid D. I shouldn’t have let Childress get past me like that. But at the same time I’m just trying to get better so I guess we can peak at the right time as a team.”