DURHAM, N.C. — No. 3 Duke (27-3, 14-3 ACC) was not going to let senior Quinn Cook go out with a loss on his Senior Night. And there was never any doubt in this one, as Duke led 52-15 at halftime and cruised from there, beating Wake Forest (13-17, 5-12 ACC) by a final of 94-51. Duke locks up the No. 2 seed in the ACC Tournament (Notre Dame locked up the No. 3 seed with its win at Louisville; Virginia was already set at No. 1) and so the top three seeds are set. Duke has one more pretty important game to them left to go, though — at rival North Carolina on Saturday.
1. Quinn Cook’s Senior Night went just as it should have
A lot of times, the emotion of Senior Night can be too much for even the best players. Duke senior guard Quinn Cook, who’s emotional anyway, was dealing with a lot coming into the game.
"Quinn has been so good for us and what a fabulous year it’s been," Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "It was seven years yesterday that his dad passed, so he has had an emotional 48 hours here. For him to have this type of game and go out this way was very good."
At halftime, Cook had six points on 2-of-8 shooting (2-of-5 from three), three rebounds, two assists and one turnover in 18 minutes.
He missed his next two shots in the second half — a layup and a 3-pointer — and found himself staring at a 2-of-10 shooting night on his final game in Cameron with 14:38 to go as he came out for a breather.
He hit a 3-pointer with 10:48 to go in transition, and then he had two free throws and a layup in 44 seconds in the final seven minutes or so. Ultimately, he hit his last two field goal attempts in a Duke uniform on his home floor, and he got his curtain call with 4:44 to go. He exited with 13 points on 4-of-12 shooting, five rebounds, and two assists in 32 minutes.
So often, his younger teammates have needed someone, anyone, to step up and hit big shots. He’s done that. This time, they returned the favor. "Quinn, being the team guy that he is and the leader that he is, told us just to focus on the game, do it for each other," freshman point guard Tyus Jones said.
"I don’t think you could write it any better tonight. We wanted to go out there and do it for him."
2. Injuries are starting to pile up for an already-thin Duke team
They’re relatively minor injuries, although that’s easy for you to say if it’s not your sprained ankle, broken rib or tweaked your shoulder.
The ankles seem to be the biggest issue, as now four of Duke’s players have had sprained or tweaked ankles in the last few weeks here, three of them starters — Jahlil Okafor, Quinn Cook, and Grayson Allen. Add Amile Jefferson and Justise Winslow to that list in the Wake Forest game.
"Our trainer said it didn’t seem bad, although when Amile came back in, I thought he was favoring it," Krzyzewski said. "We’ll see tomorrow. I don’t think it’s long lasting. I hope everyone is ready for Saturday because we only have eight guys. So that is not a good thing. But we’re concerned. The good thing is ankles are better than knees, so let’s hope that it works out that way."
Since dismissing Rasheed Sulaimon from the team back in late January, Duke is down to eight scholarship players. They need everyone they can get. That meant they all had to come back into a game that was a blowout, just because Duke didn’t have anyone else to put in unless it played its two walk-ons for the final 10 minutes. Even still, that’s just two players that get to rest.
Everyone needs to play well for Duke, or its depth will become a factor. And so far, that’s been what’s happening, and Duke’s more important players are pushing through it.
Winslow, who’s nursed a broken rib and a shoulder injury already this season, took a charge in the first half that clearly shook him up a bit. "Just a little bruise on my butt," Winslow said. "But I’ll be fine."
Later, on a fast break, he appeared to tweak his ankle. He spent a considerable amount of time on the Duke bench with the training staff, before eventually coming back into the game. Even though Duke was up by a considerable margin. "I was able to get back into the game," Winslow said, "so it was nothing bad."
Other than walk-ons, it’s not like Duke had a lot of options in terms of guys to put in for Winslow anyway. But the freshman has been as banged up as anyone on the Duke roster. At 6-foot-6, 225 pounds, he’s a big guy physically. "I’ve been through a lot this year, injury-wise. I’ve been able to come up with some mental tactics to not really focus on the pain, but just keep going," Winslow said. He wouldn’t say exactly what those tricks were — "a secret", he said — "Just different tricks you play with yourself so that you don’t think about it too much."
One of the biggest ways he avoids thinking about the pain is thinking about how he can help his team. And Winslow would take no credit for his stat-stuffing ways — he finished with 13 points, six rebounds, seven assists and six steals — crediting only his teammates.
So that’s what he thinks about, he says, when he has to push through the pain.
"I just do it for my teammates, do it for my brothers. When I’m out there, I’m sacrificing my body for the greater good of the team. But it definitely takes a toll on you," Winslow said. "But we’ve got great trainers that keep me physically feeling good. I don’t want to get banged up, but if that’s what it takes for us to win, then I’m all for it."
3. Duke’s bench is stepping up
The injury bug has been biting, but thankfully for Duke, its bench is stepping up and playing very well — its bench and its secondary guys, so to speak. Obviously, Duke’s top four is Okafor, Cook, Jones and Winslow. But the Blue Devils need guys like Allen, Jefferson, Matt Jones and Marshall Plumlee to give them good minutes.
In this game, they did just that. Allen and Jones led the team in scoring, finishing with 27 points and 17 points, respectively. Plumlee’s 18 minutes allowed Okafor to rest, and Jefferson got in a solid 20 before his ankle limited him.
"The bench played so well — Marshall (Plumlee) and Amile (Jefferson) and Grayson (Allen), they played so well tonight," Krzyzewski said. "No matter who we had in the game, it was a very good, functioning team."
But it was Allen’s play in particular, a career-high 27 points on 9-of-11 shooting (4-of-5 from three), that was eye-catching.
Allen’s 24 minutes were a career-high, and they were needed as Winslow nursed various ailments throughout the game. But he was red-hot too, and his 27 points were as many as he had in his previous eight games combined, as were his four three-pointers.
"I personally had a feeling that he was going to kind of explode and get going one game, just because in practice he’s been on fire. He’s been shooting the lights out, and I see each game he’s getting more confident," Tyus Jones said.
The freshman wing has been the forgotten member of Duke’s freshman class, but make no mistake about it — his versatile game and athleticism are going to be on display in Durham next year.
It’s nothing new to Winslow, who has to guard his friend and roommate in practice.
"There’s been plenty of practices where Grayson has done that (to me)," Winslow said. "When we see it in a game, it doesn’t really surprise us because he does it all the time in practice. He’s a great shooter and he’s been getting to the basket extremely well, extremely athletic. It may be new to y’all, but we’ve always known that he can do it."
Allen hit his first few shots, and his confidence seemed to soar from there. And it didn’t hurt that he got some advice from a pretty good source.
"(Cook) told me to keep being aggressive, keep going out there and just stay hungry, keep looking to score," Allen said. "It was a really emotional night for him, but he just stayed on me to keep looking to score."
40 — Quinn Cook has made at least one three-pointer in 40 consecutive games, which is a Duke record. No other active ACC player has a longer streak.
8 — The total number of field goal attempts that Jahlil Okafor has against Wake Forest in two games this season, and he’s scored a total of 18 points. He has taken at least eight shots in 13 of Duke’s other 14 ACC games he’s played in this season, and has averaged 18.2 points per game in those contests compared to 9.0 against Wake Forest.