The Duke basketball team rallied for an 85-83 comeback win over Wake Forest on Saturday afternoon in Winston-Salem.
The Blue Devils used a 9-0 run in the final three minutes and were led by sophomore Luke Kennard, who showed why he’s an All-American candidate with 30 second half points, including the game-winning three pointer with 6.6 seconds left to give Duke the lead.
It was Duke’s first ACC road win of the season and it moved the team to 4-4 in conference play, now only two games back in the loss column after a chaotic day around the league.
Here are five takeaways from Saturday’s game.
- This needs to be Luke Kennard’s team.
For all the talk this season about how Duke is so talented that it’s tough for guys to figure out roles and to know who will lead this team, the issue has been overcomplicated. Luke Kennard has been Duke’s best offensive player all year, and it really hasn’t been close. He’s one of the most efficient players in the country and Duke’s offense is noticeably better when he’s the focal point. Kennard has his own limitations on defense, but there’s no question that the offense needs to run through him moving forward.
2. Duke saved its season…for now.
Trailing by double digits in the second half on the road, it looked like Duke was on its way to losing for the fourth time in its past five games and likely dropping out of the Top 25. With a resume where a 2-point loss to Kansas is arguably the best performance, it’d be fair to view the Blue Devils as a team on the NCAA Tournament bubble. The impressive wins simply aren’t there. With upcoming games against North Carolina, Virginia, Notre Dame, and Florida State, Duke has a chance to get some signature victories, but for now, it feels like the Blue Devils are treading water.
3. Grayson Allen is overthinking things.
While all the headlines will be about his technical foul and getting shoved on the Duke bench by Brandon Childress, there was a play yesterday that clearly highlighted Grayson Allen’s on-court struggles this season. Allen had a 1-on-1 opportunity in transition and appeared to be attacking the basket, a situation where he was one of the best players in the country last season. Instead of trying to finish at the rim or get to the free throw line, Allen instead tried to pass the ball out to the perimeter, which resulted in a turnover and Wake Forest 3-pointer at the other end of the floor. It was the perfect microcosm of how much Allen has struggled to adjust to a new role this season of knowing when to attack vs. when to be a facilitator.
4. Frank Jackson is the freshman Duke fans should be most excited about.
For all the hype about Harry Giles, Jayson Tatum, and Marques Bolden as Duke’s three most heralded freshmen, it appears that Frank Jackson is the player with the brightest future as a Blue Devil. Jackson is the guy who seems to be the most natural fit in the Duke lineup and he brings an energy and intensity on defense that is badly needed on this team. He also isn’t projected as a one-and-done player (unlike Giles, Tatum & Bolden), meaning we’ll likely get to see him improve over the course of spending at least two years in the program.
5. The ACC should be embarrassed.
This isn’t a “Duke got screwed by the refs” argument. The officiating yesterday was pitiful for both teams, which isn’t a surprise when Ted Valentine is part of the crew. John Collins and Luke Kennard both picked up two fouls in the first four minutes of the game, meaning the best player for both teams was immediately in foul trouble. It set the tone for a game that was painful to watch because of the officiating, and it eventually led to frustrations boiling over for both teams in the second half. Add in that TV play-by-play announcer Tim Brando felt the need to criticize Wake Forest multiple times for not providing courtside seats for him, and it was a bad look for the league. He regularly complained that it was difficult to describe what was happening or know who was making plays based on his vantage point. Perhaps he should watch on TV like the rest of us?
The narrative will be the it was “another incredible game in the ACC!” but don’t be fooled by an exciting final 60 seconds that covered up a game that was poorly handled for the first 39 minutes.