#8 Duke beats #9 Wake Forest

In a battle of two of the top teams in the ACC (and in the nation), the Duke Blue Devils jumped out quickly on the Demon Deacons, building a 22-point lead late in the first half before Wake slowly chipped away at the lead. They got within two points with under eight minutes to play in the second half, but Duke managed its lead and ultimately triumphed, 101-91.

Before the game, Wake Forest head coach Dino Gaudio talked up his team’s league-leading field goal percentage allowed, and then Duke went out and set the nets on fire. Duke shot 54% from the field, and Wake was even better, shooting 61% in the loss. It’s not often that a team shoots over 60% and still loses the game.

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#1 Duke, #3 Pitt both fall

Who says the college basketball regular season doesn’t mean anything? (Kirk Herbstreit and Mike Greenberg, I’m looking at you.)

When Dino Gaudio took over as the head coach at Wake Forest, he immediately announced a change in defensive philosophy. He decided that if the team wanted to become a perennial contender, they had to focus more on that end of the court. He implemented the Pack Defense, created by Dick Bennett, former coach at Wisconsin and Washington State. He spoke with Dick’s son, Tony, as well as Sean Miller, who uses the defense at Xavier.

That change in philosophy paid great dividends tonight, as the #4 Demon Deacons upended #1 Duke, 70-68, limiting the Blue Devils to just 4-22 from long range.

But good defense can’t always overcome bad free throw shooting. Wake Forest led, 61-48, with 8:50 to play. Benefiting from Wake’s 5-10 free throw shooting down the stretch, Duke went on a 20-7 run to tie the game at 68-68. The game should have gone to overtime, but Gerald Henderson, Nolan Smith and David McClure didn’t communicate on Wake’s out-of-bounds play with only a few seconds remaining, and James Johnson sprung free for a way-too-easy layup to win the game. Johnson was positioned to be the goat, as he was outhustled by Jon Scheyer for a rebound on Duke’s previous possession (which set up Gerald Henderson’s game-tying bucket over Johnson).

In the end, these were two very good teams doing battle in the ACC. Wake Forest now has the inside track to a #1 seed with wins over Duke and North Carolina, but the two teams will meet again in Durham on Feb. 22 and may meet a third time in the ACC Tournament.

In other action, #3 Pitt lost to #22 Villanova, 67-57. It’s tough to win any game on the road in the Big East, especially against a ranked opponent like the Wildcats. Reggie Redding led ‘Nova with 18 points as the Wildcats’ defense held the Panthers to just 42% from the floor and 20% from long range.

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