Wake Forest has lost three straight games and faces a daunting road test Tuesday night, traveling to Cameron Indoor to face Duke. Duke is 4-2 in its last six games and is coming off a 43-point win over Georgia Tech. Here are three keys that could help the Deacs get back in the win column:
Play a full game
During their three-game losing streak, the Deacs failed to string together consecutive halves of quality basketball. Against Virginia, Wake fell by 19 early and entered the half with a 10-point deficit. They cut the lead to one at one point in the second half, but ultimately couldn’t get over the hump and lost by nine. Against Pitt, the Deacs also trailed by 10 at halftime and couldn’t catch up, falling by two at the buzzer after Tyree Appleby’s game-winning three-point attempt bounced off the rim. In the NC State game, the Deacs led by six at the break, but gave up 48 points (including 23 by DJ Burns) in the final 20 minutes and lost their second straight home game.
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This team’s play was too erratic and erratic at both ends of the pitch to produce quality wins. If they start fast, they seem to finish slowly and vice versa. The scoring spread the teams put up against the Deacs is damning – Pitt dropped 49 points in the first half compared to 32 in the second, while NC State had 31 at halftime and scored 48 in the second period.
Last time out against Duke, the Deacs outscored the Blue Devils in both halves, building a nine-point halftime lead to eventually win by 11. When Jon Scheyer’s group started to heat up in the second half — they scored 40 points in the final 20 minutes compared to 30 in the first period — Wake raised their level of play, never letting the lead fall below 7. To handle the upset at Cameron Indoor (the Deacs are 8.5-point underdogs), Steve Forbes will you have to find a way to keep this group locked for the entire 40 minutes.
Protect the offensive glass
Duke leads the ACC in offensive rebounding, averaging 13.6 offensive rebounds per contest in 21 games. Meanwhile, Wake Forest ranked just 10th in the ACC in defensive rebounding. Just a few days ago, the Deacs gave up 13 offensive boards to the Wolfpack en route to their third straight loss.
Kyle Filipowski is definitely the Blue Devils’ best rebounder, averaging 9.4 rebounds (2.8 offensive) per game. Wake did an excellent job keeping him on the glass last time out, holding him to just four rebounds and one offensive board.
As a team, Wake Forest allowed just seven offensive rebounds the first time they played Duke. By limiting the Blue Devils’ extra possessions, Wake was able to keep control of the game and essentially lead wire-to-wire. A similar effort will be needed for Steve Forbes’ side to win their first indoor game at Cameron since the Tim Duncan days.
Production of a bench
Throughout the year, bench contributions for the Demon Deacons have been erratic. The rotation is essentially solidified at eight players, and the three non-starters who see consistent minutes (Daivien Williamson, Davion Bradford, Bobi Klintman) are combining for just 15 points per contest, most of which come from Williamson (8.5 ppg).
Wake relied heavily on their starters in the NC State game — the aforementioned trio went a combined 1/10 for just three points. Fortunately, Wake has four starters averaging double figures and the first unit is capable of handling most of the offensive load. However, when Wake beat Duke in December, the bench players went an efficient 5/8 and added 14 big points.
The Demon Deacons aren’t a particularly deep team these days with medical redshirt senior Jao Ituka and freshman Zach Keller failing to carve out a consistent role in the rotation. Even so, beating this Duke squad in front of a hostile home crowd will require all hands to be ready. The Deacs don’t necessarily need their bench players to be shooters, but the team plays better when that group doesn’t hesitate to take smart, high-percentage looks.
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