Arguably, before Saturday’s contest at Duke, it had been 20 years since Wake Forest played a truly competitive game at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
And although the current state of the Wake Forest basketball program is different from when Tim Duncan was a senior in 1997, Saturday proved there are at least some similarities that connect the rosters, two decades apart.
John Collins, named ACC Player of the Week, has now solidified himself as the best post player at Wake Forest since Duncan. Collins scored 31 points and grabbed 15 rebounds against Duke, putting his team in a position to win against the No. 12 team in the nation. The Deacs ultimately fell 99-94, as six Blue Devils scored in double figures.
Luke Kennard led Duke with 23 points while freshman Jayson Tatum scored 19 and senior forward Amile Jefferson added 16 points. Freshman guard Frank Jackson scored 12 points, Grayson Allen scored 11 and Matt Jones added 10.
The Blue Devils shot 59 percent from the field and connected on 13 three-pointers, giving Duke its best shooting day against an ACC team this season.
Wake Forest looked as if it would be heading into halftime with a 47-45 lead until Duke’s Grayson Allen drove to the basket and drew the foul on Collins in the half’s final second. The call proved to be critical and controversial as Allen extended his foot into Collins on the drive — seemingly the only contact on the play between the two players. Yet, the foul was still called on Collins and Allen went to the line and connected on his two attempts to tie the game at 47.
The second half began just as unfavorably for the Deacs as the first half ended — Dinos Mitoglou was called for basket interference on Blue Devil a three-point attempt. Mitoglou touched the bottom of the net, and by rule, Duke was awarded three points, even though it missed the shot.
As the second half progressed, Duke’s three-point shooting continued to impress. Allen, Tatum and Kennard led the way for the Blue Devils, keeping any run by the Deacs in check with an answer on the offensive end and even extending their lead to 12 points late into the half.
However, Wake Forest did not give up. Collins and Brandon Childress each completed three-point plays from the free throw line to keep the game within reach.
And with 1:20 left, it was Bryant Crawford that hit a layup to pull Wake Forest within one point — 93-92. However, Crawford missed two layups in the final minute that would have either tied the game or given the Demon Deacons the lead.
While this was undeniably a heartbreaking defeat for Wake Forest, it was nonetheless encouraging.
“We just beat a really good team,” Duke’s coach K said after the game. It took Duke’s best shooting performance of conference play to defeat the Deacs — a testament to the fact that the Demon Deacons can play with anybody in the country.
Yet, coach Manning was not satisfied, saying “There are no moral victories … we need to find a way to get it done in the rest of our conference games.”