This is the kind of game that Wake Forest has been coveting for more than a decade — a home contest with big implications for both teams.
No. 8 Duke will oppose Wake Forest on Wednesday night in Winston-Salem, N.C.
“It’s going to be pumped,” Wake Forest guard Alondes Williams said of the atmosphere. “We’re ready. We love a good competitive game. Just waiting for Wednesday.”
Duke (12-2, 2-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) will be eager to be back in action as well after taking a 76-74 home loss to Miami on Saturday night. That was just the second game for the Blue Devils since Christmas.
“We just have to keep moving,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “We’re not in shape. Part of it is that we’re tired.”
That might stem from a COVID-related layoff that created a gap in Duke’s schedule. The players seem to be taking time to get back up to speed.
“It’s just a lesson for us — we’ve got to be sharp because whenever teams play us, they’re going to be sharp as can be and always giving us their best shot,” Duke forward Paolo Banchero said. “We’ve got to match that and give every team our best shot and be sharp.”
Duke’s only true road game resulted in a loss at Ohio State. The Blue Devils had two games postponed, both slated to be ACC road outings.
Wake Forest (13-3, 3-2) is off to its best 16-game start to a season in 13 years.
“We’re getting there,” Demon Deacons coach Steve Forbes said. “We have a fun team to watch. They play hard and play the right way.”
Three of the Demon Deacons’ wins have come in overtime, including a 77-74 toppling of Syracuse of Saturday that pushed Wake Forest’s home record to 10-0.
Forbes said his players have demonstrated a good demeanor during crunch time of games, which has sparked confidence.
“I feel like we showed a lot of toughness,” Williams said. “Not to back down and not to be tired.”
Wake Forest upset then-No. 7 Duke in double overtime in February 2020, perhaps the last time there was a full dose of energy in Lawrence Joel Coliseum.
Now, the Demon Deacons hope to feed off that type of environment for the Wednesday showdown.
“It’s a basketball tradition, The Joel on fire,” Forbes said. “We’re getting there.”
Duke’s season-high 17 turnovers contributed to the loss to Miami.
ACC opponents are shooting 40.6 percent from the field against Wake Forest.
The Blue Devils will encounter a Wake Forest team with a couple of transfers — Williams (Oklahoma) and Jake LaRavia (Indiana State) — leading the way. Those players are college veterans, though newcomers for the Demon Deacons.
Duke relies heavily on freshmen Banchero, Trevor Keels and A.J. Griffin.
“I kind of feel like our Achilles heel this year has been how young we are,” Duke junior Wendell Moore Jr. said. “I really think that all starts with me. (In the Miami game), I didn’t lead the guys the way I’m supposed to. Up three with 30 seconds left, I feel like, as a leader, I can’t let our team lose that game.”
–Field Level Media