DURHAM — As Duke’s players ran back to the locker room following a 75-73 home win over Wake Forest, they joked among themselves about the Blue Devils’ “revenge tour.”
While no one would give specifics on the tour, it was clear that beating the Demon Deacons was stop No. 1 on the tour. The Blue Devils lost to Wake in Winston-Salem on Dec. 20, falling behind by 15 and losing 81-70 in a lackluster defensive effort. The team was motivated to show that the earlier result was a fluke.
Mission accomplished. Duke led by seven at halftime and grew the lead to as many as 14 before withstanding a late Wake rally to earn the win. The Blue Devils are now 16-6 on the year and 7-4 in the ACC, putting them in a sixth-place tie.
“That’s not the same team we played in December,” said Wake coach Steve Forbes. “They’ve grown up a lot. I knew they would.”
One big difference between the Duke of six weeks ago and the team that took the floor in Cameron was the presence of big man Dereck Lively. The freshman missed the first game with illness, as did fellow freshman scorer Dariq Whitehead, who also missed the rematch recovering from a leg injury.
Lively’s presence inside was a major factor against a Wake team that drove the lane seemingly at will in the first game. Lively had four blocked shots on Wednesday night to go with seven points and six rebounds. The Blue Devils outscored Wake by 10 points when Lively was on the floor, the best plus-minus of any Duke player.
Coach Jon Scheyer pointed out that Lively also had three assists and no turnovers.
“He’s just getting better and better,” Scheyer said.
The inside presence opened things up for Jeremy Roach and Tyrese Proctor outside. The Blue Devils have moved Roach off the ball, giving Proctor the responsibility of running the offense in recent games, and both guards have responded. Roach hit 2 of 3 from 3-point range and also scored on a variety of drives to finish with a team-high 21 points. Proctor hit three from outside and scored 17, the second-highest Blue Devils point total.
“It just lets me focus on scoring, getting guys involved, too,” Roach said of the new arrangement. “He’s been doing his thing pretty much the whole season. Recently, he’s stepped up — I know the last two games he’s had 15 assists and one turnover. He’s been doing a helluva job controlling our team.”
Freshman big Kyle Filipowski overcame a slow start to finish with 16 points and 11 rebounds, recording his 11th double-double of the year and fifth in six games. He scored Duke’s final seven points, including a 3-pointer that shut down a late Wake Forest run.
The Deacs fell to 14-9, 6-6 in the conference, and lost their fourth straight.
The win sends Duke into their rivalry game with UNC on a two-game winning streak. More importantly, it checks off the first stop on the revenge tour.
“We’ve grown up a lot as a team, and I think that showed tonight,” Proctor said. “Just being able to hang in for those runs they go on and just get a good gritty win.”