Duke was without coach Mike Krzyzewski on Saturday against Wake Forest because he had a virus.
But the No. 7 ranked Blue Devils didn’t miss a beat. Associate head coach Jeff Capel III filled in for Krzyzewski, and Duke beat Wake Forest 89-71 at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Duke is now 15-2 overall, and 3-2 in the conference.
Here are five takeaways from the game:
1. Duke’s defense seems to be coming together. It might not be there yet, but Duke’s defense continues to improve. Wake Forest is a tougher team than Pitt, which the Blue Devils beat 87-52 on Wednesday, and Duke forced the Demon Deacons to shoot 34 percent from the floor in the first half. It contributed to Duke’s 46-33 halftime lead. Wake didn’t do much better in the second half. It finished the game shooting 36 percent.
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Duke also forced 13 turnovers against Wake. Defense has been Duke’s biggest issue this season. In previous games, players have been out of position on ball screens, there’s been miscommunication, and there have been a lot of wide-open shots. But Duke has continued to focus on defense in practice, and it seems to be paying off.
2. Krzyzewski was not the only person sick. Freshman guard Gary Trent Jr. was ill as well. He left the game in the first half to throw up in a bucket near the bench. After the game, he said he didn’t know what he had. Whatever it was, Trent didn’t let it affect him. He scored 19 points and was 6-for-7 from behind the 3-point line.
“Just going out and playing hard and just getting the W,” Trent said. “That was the most important thing.”
Capel said Krzyzewski woke up with the virus. He said he didn’t want to get the other players sick by coming to the game and putting anyone else in jeopardy.
“But he’s better,” Capel said of Krzyzewski.
The turnaround till Duke’s next game is quick – it plays at Miami on Monday, and it is unclear whether Krzyzewski or Trent will be healthy in time for a tough conference game on the road.
3. Duke got a lift from its bench again. Duke sophomore forward Javin DeLaurier (hamstring) was out for his second straight game, while sophomore center Marques Bolden (MCL sprain) missed his third consecutive game. Duke once again, experimented with a variety of reserves. Freshman guard Alex O’Connell, gave Duke its biggest spark. He finished with 13 points.
O’Connell has scored 21 points in the last two games. Duke’s bench still doesn’t compare to other teams. Wake Forest got 37 points from its bench on Saturday. Capel said after the game that he was unsure how close DeLaurier and Bolden are to returning. But he said they were getting healthier.
4. Grayson Allen is still off his game. Allen hasn’t shot well in Duke’s conference games. On Saturday, he had another off game.
The senior guard was 0-for-5 from the floor and was 0-for-3 from behind the 3-point line against Wake Forest and finished with two points – both free throws. In Duke’s last five conference games, Allen is 6-for-26 from the 3-point line.
It was the first time Allen finished a game with zero field goals since last season. The last time was March 8, 2017 in a game against Clemson. He only played 12 minutes that game.
But Allen did make a difference in other areas. He played good on ball defense, found open players and rebounded the basketball well. He had 12 rebounds and 8 assists.
“I think it shows tremendous growth in him as a young man, that he’s into the team,” Capel said of Allen. “And he understands that he can do other things, to really help this team. And he’s doing that, and he’s not jealous, he’s doing other things.”
Said Allen: “I think I’m a 40 to 45 percent 3-point shooter, so whatever the slump is in the last game, I think I’m due for a breakout game here soon. That’s how percentages work. So whenever that may be, hopefully it’s sooner than later, hopefully it’s Monday, but I think the next shot is going in.”
5. Duke effective from behind the 3-point line. Usually when Allen doesn’t shoot well from behind the 3-point line, Duke doesn’t either. He’s the team’s best 3-point shooting threat. Coming into the game, he was shooting 41 percent from behind the 3-point line. But as a team, Duke was 12-for-23 from behind the 3-point line. Freshmen guards O’Connell and Trevon Duval and forwards Wendell Carter, Marvin Bagley III all hit at least one 3-pointer.
“Any time we make shots on the perimeter it’s big for us,” Capel said. “Because we have two guys inside who are really good, very efficient and can get a whole team in foul trouble. When we’re making shots, it makes you have to go out and guard them.”
Bagley finished with 30 points and 11 rebounds. Carter added 15 points and 11 rebounds before fouling out.