Duke's Jefferson on final stretch of college career
No. 12 Duke put its deep pool of scorers on display Saturday at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
It took that much offense to overcome a monster effort by Wake Forest’s John Collins.
Collins scored 31 points and grabbed 15 rebounds, but Duke’s six double-figure scorers trumped his day as the Blue Devils won 99-94 for their seventh consecutive win.
Luke Kennard led the Blue Devils (22-5, 10-4 ACC) with 23 points while freshman Jayson Tatum scored 19 and senior forward Amile Jefferson added 16. Freshman guard Frank Jackson scored 12 points, including nine in the second half. Grayson Allen scored 11 and Matt Jones 10.
The Blue Devils shot 59 percent, their best shooting day against an ACC team this season. It just missed their best shooting performance of the season – 60 percent in a 94-55 win over Maine on Dec. 3.
“We have a deep team, we have a unique team, we’ve got really talented players,” Kennard said. “It’s fun when we click, when we’re together and we’re tough. It’s fun and it’s really good basketball.”
The Blue Devils had to quickly crank up the offense just three days after slugging out a slow-paced 65-55 win at defensive-minded Virginia.
That didn’t prove to be a problem.
In a first half that saw 14 lead changes and seven ties, the teams went to the locker room tied at 47. Duke shot 62.1 percent in the first half while Wake Forest shot 54.5 percent.
Duke rarely stopped Collins inside as the 6-10 sophomore hit 13 of 18 shots. Guard Bryant Crawford added 21 points and six assists for the Demon Deacons (15-12, 6-9).
“That was a big win for us,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “What an offensive game. They are really good. Collins and Crawford, they can play with anybody.”
Duke built a 12-point lead with 12 minutes to play in the game only to see Wake Forest claw its way back behind Collins and Crawford.
Duke had made a defensive adjustment to implement better switching in man-to-man sets and, while it was better, it’s a stretch to call it effective.
“Our kids are up and they have good attitudes but there was something missing – that edge,” Krzyzewski said. “It showed up defensively in the first half. In the second half we just switched everything. We thought we can’t go zone. Our ball screen defense stinks. Let’s switch and if they want to take advantage of us inside at least they won’t be driving and they’ll be two-point shots.”
When Keyshawn Woods sank a 3-pointer with 3:38 to play, Duke’s lead was down to 89-84.
Jones missed the front end of a one-and-bonus chance, and Collins answered by scoring inside and drawing a foul. His free throw left Duke with a 89-87 lead with 3:05 left.
Jefferson took a pass from Jones to score inside for Duke, but Crawford scored inside and was fouled. His free throw left Duke’s lead at 91-90 with 2:29 to play.
After Kennard and Crawford traded layups, Allen missed a free throw with 1:02 left giving Wake Forest the ball trailing 93-92.
That’s when Duke, after struggling on defense all day, mustered up a series of important stops.
As he had done often in the game, Crawford drove the lane and spun a shot off the backboard. But it rolled off with 33.4 seconds left.
Tatum was fouled on the rebound and, with 31.1 seconds left, hit two free throws for a 95-92 Duke lead.
Crawford missed another contested layup with with 15 seconds left and Jefferson, also fouled on the rebound, hit two free throws to give Duke a 97-92 lead with 14.1 seconds to play.
“At some point we knew offense was going to keep us in the game,” Jones said. “We just had to get enough stops. Luckily we did that.”
Strong shooting from the 3-point line proved the difference in the game as Duke made 13 of 27 attempts (48.1 percent) while Wake Forest was 5-of-15.
“They scored well from the 3-point line,” Wake Forest coach Danny Manning said. “When you look at the stat sheet and a team scores 13 3s and few of them were contested, you want to tip your hat because you want to give up contested shots.”