WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP) — Paolo Banchero had 24 points and eighth-ranked Duke hit 13 straight shots to blow it open after halftime and beat Wake Forest 76-64 on Wednesday night with Hall of Fame coach Mike Krzyzewski sidelined by illness.
Fellow freshman A.J. Griffin had a season-high 22 points to help the Blue Devils bounce back from a weekend home loss to Miami. They did it with the retiring longtime Duke coach out with what the school called a “non-COVID-related virus,” while associate head coach Jon Scheyer — designated as Krzyzewski’s successor after this season — worked as acting coach.
Banchero and Griffin led the way as the Blue Devils (13-2, 3-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) suddenly stretched out a two-possession lead in the final minute of the first half — then carried a scorchingly hot hand into the second that wobbled the Demon Deacons (13-4, 3-3) for good.
Griffin ended the first half by pump-faking Khadim Sy off his feet and then stepping over to knock down a corner 3-pointer just before the horn for the 35-29 lead. The Blue Devils made their last four shots of the first half, then roared out of the break by making their first nine shots.
Alondes Williams scored 25 points for the Demon Deacons, who had the Blue Devils in a tight game coming down the first-half stretch and led 29-27 on Dallas Walton’s and-1 dunk with 54.1 seconds left. But the Demon Deacons erased a stretch of quality minutes with a shaky finish that jumpstarted Duke’s run-turned-landslide.
Duke: This was the Blue Devils’ third game back from a COVID-19 outbreak that led to two postponements. They returned by shooting a season-low 37% in the win against Georgia Tech, then committed a season-worst 17 turnovers in the Miami loss. Along the way, Krzyzewski said it would take time for the Blue Devils to rebuild their conditioning to full-go game shape. This time, Duke shot 61% after halftime and 51% for the game while also making 7 of 15 3-pointers, with Griffin in particular continuing to blossom.
Wake Forest: Second-year coach Steve Forbes has brought a spark to the program after years of struggle, and it showed here with a loud home crowd — including a full and rowdy student section commonplace for the Chris Paul era in the mid-2000s. The Demon Deacons gave reason for the buzz by erasing an early eight-point hole and getting into a tight game, only to see this one unravel with a few ill-timed turnovers just before halftime to help Duke make its move.
Duke: Hosts North Carolina State on Saturday.
Wake Forest: At Virginia on Saturday.