No Coach K, no problem.
Missing its head coach, Mike Krzyzewski, who was out with a virus, Duke had little problem with Wake Forest on Saturday at Cameron Indoor Stadium. With associate head coach Jeff Capel taking over, the Blue Devils (15-2, 3-2 ACC) won their seventh straight game over the Demon Deacons, 89-71.
It was announced less than an hour before tipoff that Krzyzewski would miss the game. It wouldn’t be the first time Capel had to step in and lead the team, and Duke is now 6-3 when the former Blue Devils guard takes over for his former coach.
Duke got its usual post production from freshmen forwards Wendell Carter Jr. (15 points, 11 rebounds) and Marvin Bagley III (30, 11) but also got a big game from a third first-year player in reserve guard Alex O’Connell, who chipped in a career-high 12 points. His previous high of 10 came in the Blue Devils’ win over Furman on Nov. 20. Freshman guard Gary Trent Jr. heated up after the first half to finish with 19.
Duke went on an 8-0 late in the first half to finally get some separation from the Demon Deacons. The Blue Devils got a spark off the bench from O’Connell, who knocked down three triples, and a pair of free throws during the run by Duke. Wake (8-9, 1-4) didn’t help itself, going cold after the under-4 timeout. In eight possessions after the timeout, the Deacons turned the ball over four times, and missed all four of their shot attempts from the floor.
The Blue Devils, meanwhile, were just getting started. Most of the damage came outside from O’Connell, who knocked down his first 3-point attempt from the top of the key to put Duke up 31-25. After a layup from Bagley, Trent hit one from the line. O’Connell’s extra minutes came available when Trent went to the sidelines midway through the first half to throw up into a bucket.
O’Connell then scored five in a row to push the Duke lead to 13 with 2:41 remaining in the first half. Seeing that first one go in went a long way for O’Connell.
“Especially here in Cameron, once that first shot falls, I can get my feet under me,” O’Connell said. “I really start to move well without the ball and I try to make sure I’m always ready to shoot. Once that first shot goes in I’m pretty confident in the rest of my game.”
The freshman from Roswell, Ga., wasn’t done, knocking down another 3, and two more free throws before the end of the half. Wake finally ended its drought when Wake junior guard Bryant Crawford knocked down a 3 to make it a 13-point game. The 3-point shooting didn’t stop at halftime. Bagley knocked down a 3 for the first basket of the second half, and a few minutes later, his post partner, Carter, hit a wide-open 3 to make it 52-37.
“Alex, he was terrific,” Capel said. “It helped our team a lot.”
The Demon Deacons’ last lead came at the 12:55 mark of the first half, when they led Duke 15-14. Wake Forest’s biggest lead was four, but early on it appeared they would make enough shots to hang with the No. 7 Blue Devils. But after taking that late one-point lead, the Demons missed six in a row from the floor and the Devils took control of the contest from that point on.
Whatever was bothering Trent in the first half didn’t stop him from finishing the game, as he scored 12 points in the second half, including five 3-pointers.
The game was a dominating performance by Duke, which shot 44 percent from the field and 52 from behind the line. The Blue Devils also dominated the boards, out-rebounding the Deacons 45-36.