Duke-Wake Forest report card

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Duke wasn’t exactly sharp in its 79-71 victory at Wake Forest on Tuesday night, but the Blue Devils notched an important victory nonetheless.

The Blue Devils had to fend off a late run by the Demon Deacons, and in the process probably learned one more valuable lesson about taking the foot off the pedal.

Duke improved to 26-4 overall and 13-2 in the ACC, while Wake dropped to 13-16, 4-11.

Here are both teams’ grades for their performances:

Duke offense: If not for 3-point shooting, who knows what could have happened in this game. Duke drained half its 20 attempts from beyond the arc, including 4-for-5 by Ryan Kelly, who also had a season-high 23 points, and 3 of 5 from Seth Curry. Duke hit 45-3 percent of its shots overall, but had one more turnover (13) than assists. Grade: C.

Wake offense: Nikita Mescherikov sure went out with a bang. The senior scored 18 points and was a problem for Duke all night. The Deacs were solid offensively, they just didn’t hit enough of the open shots they were allowed. They drained 43.3 percent of their 60 attempts, and were at 35.3 percent from beyond the arc (6-for-17). Their best possessions came late. Grade: C.

Duke defense: Duke allowed too many open looks, it’s just that Wake couldn’t bury enough of them. The Blue Devils did register seven blocked shots and had six steals, but they just didn’t consistently play with the quickness and alertness they usually do. Grade: C-.

Wake defense: The Deacons did a nice job limiting Duke to nine offensive rebounds and allowed just three field goals by the Plumlees in 48 combined minutes. But they had no answers for Kelly, who blitzed them for a season-high point total in this building just like he did a year ago. Kelly and Curry combined to shoot 7-for-10 from beyond the arc. Grade: C-.

Duke intangibles: Well, the Blue Devils won, so that is good for the intangible grade. But Duke did not handle the end of the game well at all. Shot selection, passing, defense and just not playing as sharp as it usually does were the afflictions of the late-game run by the home team that cut a 23-point margin to 6. Overall, it was a so-so performance at best, but it was a victory and a big lesson they most definitely will learn. Grade: C-.

Wake intangibles: Big-time kudos to the Demon Deacons for not quitting and continuing to work. They cut a 63-40 score down to 74-68 with 36.6 seconds remaining and had the ball. Wake actually gave Duke a scare, and the players and much-maligned coaching staff deserve a high grade for hanging in there. Grade: A+.