Wake comes up short in 79-71 loss to No. 4 Duke

Wake Forest seemed headed for another blowout against No. 4

Duke. The Demon Deacons fell behind by more than 20 points and the

Blue Devils were scoring seemingly at will.

Then coach Jeff Bzdelik’s team figured out how to put a few

defensive stops together – and that almost resulted in one of the

most memorable comebacks in school history.

The Demon Deacons’ 79-71 loss to Duke on Tuesday night – a game

they trailed by 23 with 9 1/2 minutes left – showed them that

they’re not that far from turning their program back around.

”We just fought,” forward Travis McKie said. ”You see one

shot go in, you just start believing. … If we lock down

defensively and rebound, we can compete with anybody.”

Nikita Mescheriakov and Tony Chennault both had 18 points for

the Demon Deacons (13-16, 4-11 Atlantic Coast Conference), who have

lost two of three and eight of 10 with the only wins in that

stretch coming against the only two teams – Boston College and

Georgia Tech – they are ahead of in the league standings.

Still, they couldn’t help but come away from this loss feeling

positive about the future of the program.

”It’s not about moral victories,” Bzdelik said. ”It’s just

that they fought all the way.”

McKie scored 14 points, C.J. Harris had 11 and Carson Desrosiers

finished with 10 for Wake Forest, which trailed 65-42 with under 10

minutes to play before its huge run made it a game again.

McKie’s jumper with just under 5 minutes left made it 67-61 –

the first time since midway through the first half that Wake Forest

was that close.

The Demon Deacons turned to their defense during the 19-2 run

that cut the deficit to six points – and set up two good chances to

get even closer. The Blue Devils went more than 5 minutes between

field goals.

”We just needed to get down and defend, get some stops so we

could get out and go,” Bzdelik said. ”When the light went on and

we got some stops, we got ourselves going.”

The Demon Deacons had the ball down 72-66 with less than 2

minutes left, but Chennault missed a 3-pointer, Duke milked the

clock and Miles Plumlee chased down the critical offensive rebound

of Tyler Thornton’s missed jumper with just over 1 minute left.

Seth Curry hit two free throws with 48.9 seconds left to make it

74-66.

The last chance came when Curry’s miss of the front end of a

1-and-1 left Duke’s lead at 74-68 with 35.8 seconds left. Chennault

missed another 3 and Kelly added two free throws with 25.8 seconds

to play.

”I thought I was going to make it, and by the time I (shot) it,

it felt kind of short (and) my legs kind of died on me because I

played a lot in the second half,” Chennault said. ”It was a good

shot, just a tough game.”

Ryan Kelly scored a career-high 23 points – putting up 20

against the Demon Deacons for the third straight time – to lead the

Blue Devils (26-4, 13-2) to their seventh straight win and fifth in

a row in the cross-state series. Duke became the third team in

school history to finish 8-0 in conference road games.

”Our defensive intensity was lacking there for a little

stretch. That’s something we can’t have happen,” Kelly said. ”But

to pull out a victory against a team that had been playing well at

home, and be 8-0 (in league road games), is a huge

accomplishment.”

Kelly, a 6-foot-11 Raleigh native, has been a particularly tough

matchup for the Demon Deacons ever since he established himself in

Duke’s rotation as a sophomore last season. His previous

career-high of 21 points came in a 91-73 win against them last

month at Cameron Indoor Stadium, and twice in this one he made

baskets that gave Duke its largest lead at 23 points – including a

3-pointer with 11 1/2 minutes left that made it 63-40.

”I think he’s been playing pretty well lately, and he just

needed to take it up a notch,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said.

”And he did.”