Winston-Salem, NC - Tyler Cavanaugh got Mason Plumlee up in there with a ball-fake, then made the layup, drew the foul and converted the and-one opportunity to Wake Forest a 66-65 advantage; its last lead of the game before No. 5 Duke outscored the Demon Deacons 10-4 the final 4:02 on its way to a 75-70 win.
"In the guts of the game Duke simply made some timely stops and made some timely shots," Wake Forest head coach Jeff Bzdelik. "We got some good looks, some real good looks, the kind of looks we wanted. We got the ball to the rim. We got a wide open shot. It just didn't go down, and next time they will."
It appeared the Blue Devils (18-2, 5-2 ACC) were going to run away from Wake (10-10, 3-5 ACC) when they began the second half on an 8-0 run. However, the Deacs rose to the challenge and took advantage of Duke's timidity on defense after Plumlee picked up his third foul with 18:33 remaining in regulation.
The Demon Deacons threw a 20-10 haymaker of a scoring spurt, which C.J. Harris capped with a midrange jump-shot over Seth Curry to give Wake Forest a 60-58 lead with 8:03 left in the game.
Despite their youth, which Bzdelik will never use as an excuse, the Deacs never had the deer in the headlights look of fear and awe of the mighty Duke Blue Devils.
Wake had maybe its best start of the season when considering the caliber of its competition. The Demon Deacons led by six points twice in the first half (14-8 and 20-14) before Plumlee began to take a toll on Wake Forest with his dominance in the post, scoring 19 of his career-high 32 points by halftime.
"Mason was amazing tonight with his presence in addition to 32 points," Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski said.
Plumlee's matchless efforts did not keep Wake from staying in the game or Devin Thomas from battling. The 6-foot-9 freshman from Harrisburg, Pa. scored nine of his team-high 15 points, while Harris added 10 of his 14 points and Travis McKie chipped in eight of his 14 points as the Deacs scrapped their way to a 40-40 first-half tie.
Wake Plumlee's points in the paint for stingy perimeter defense, holding the Devils to 2-14 shooting from three-point land. However, the Demon Deacons yielded a wide open three-pointer to one of the nation's most lethal outside shooter, Seth Curry, to give Duke a 69-66 lead at the 3:01 mark.
--- Thomas continues to improve and perform well against some of the ACC's top big men. He is fearless, and has vastly improved since the beginning of the season when he was only good for rebounding, defense and a few garbage baskets. His offense has come along by leaps and bounds in January.
--- Wake's level of play from home to away resembles a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde effect. The Deacs appear light years ahead when they are in their home white uniforms, but are often waiving the white flag on the road (see the win over NC State and the loss to Georgia Tech).
Wake Forest head coach Jeff Bzdelik
Opening statement: "Once again I want to thank our student body and our fans for a great atmosphere, for really getting behind this basketball team, and we appreciate that very much. It means so much to us. We really appreciate that."
"It was a very hard-fought basketball game. I'm very proud of my players."
On Mason Plumlee: "Without Ryan Kelly they're trying to Plumlee the basketball down low, and play off of him. As we studied their films they're getting the ball into him, and then the defense kind of stands around and their four men [Amile] Jefferson and [Josh] Hairston they're setting screens and they're getting their threes off of Plumlee, playing him like a point guard, so we wanted to focus in on just having him make tough twos and stay attached to the three-point shooters."
"Now, the thing we didn't do in the first half was that we wanted to do was not give him angles and make him score over you. He got a couple of dunks, and he got a couple of angles. We talked about that at halftime, doing a better job of not giving him angles."
Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski
Opening statement: "It's a heck of a basketball game. Jeff's kids came out with great energy and I thought they played with great energy the entire game. They started a different lineup to get more speed and they really pushed the ball down on us."
"I thought it knocked us back early. We adjusted a little bit in the first half and were able to hang in there to be tied at halftime."
"The second half our guys played great defense, we got back better, played ball screen defense better, and did enough good things to beat a really good basketball team tonight."