Duke and Wake Forest have reasons to be encouraged going into Wednesday night’s game.
Visiting Duke even has the bonus of those feelings coming off a victory.
Notable performances by both teams have probably renewed some hope with less than three weeks remaining in the regular season. They will clash Wednesday in an Atlantic Coast Conference game in Winston-Salem, N.C.
“The season hasn’t gone how we’ve wanted, but we just try to keep our head down and keep working every day,” Duke forward Matthew Hurt said. “Don’t take a day off and we’re not trying to listen to the outside, the social media, what everyone else says but us. The most important thing is us, and if we just focus on ourselves getting better and better every day.”
Duke (8-8, 6-6 ACC) ended a three-game losing streak by winning 69-53 on Saturday at North Carolina State. On the same day, Wake Forest went to nationally ranked Florida State and fell 92-85 in overtime to the Seminoles.
Duke made news earlier this week when word came out that freshman Jalen Johnson, who was considered one of the top newcomers in the country during the preseason, has opted to sit out the rest of the season and then enter the NBA draft.
Johnson didn’t play in Duke’s 79-68 home victory Jan. 9 against Wake Forest, as he was recovering from an injured foot.
Duke shot 9-for-18 on 3-pointers in the NC State game, its only outing in almost two months with a rate of 50 percent or better from beyond the arc. Combined with freshman post player Mark Williams’ season-best 13 points, the Blue Devils had a solid inside-outside combination.
“It was fun playing with Matt (Hurt),” Williams said. “We’ve been working in practice every day on that high-low, making that pass, moving the ball, communicating — all those things I think translated.”
The biggest takeaway for the Blue Devils might be the improved defense after yielding more than 90 points in consecutive games.
“Pretty much that’s all we’ve been working on,” coach Mike Krzyzewski said of the defense.
Wake Forest (6-9, 3-9) opens a three-game homestand with the Duke game.
In some ways, the Demon Deacons might still be anguished by not pulling off the upset at Florida State.
“Definitely a demonstration of when we’re playing at our best, the type of team we can be and should be,” Wake Forest guard Ian DuBose said. “It was tough, that’s a game we should win.”
There could be an upside for the Demon Deacons from that experience.
“It’s good for the younger guys to get a game like that,” graduate transfer Jonah Antonio said.
Antonio’s career-best 23 points, a mark boosted by seven 3-point baskets, were among the highlights from the Florida State game. He also led the team with eight rebounds.
Last February, Wake Forest pulled out a double-overtime home upset of Duke.
–Field Level Media