Fortunate bounce helps Duke Blue Devils overcome Wake Forest 71-70

Duke again didn’t have Zion Williamson. The Blue Devils also didn’t have their best version of Cameron Reddish.

However, the Blue Devils did have RJ Barrett, and that — plus a fortunate bounce on the final shot — was just enough to beat Wake Forest.

Barrett scored 28 points as Duke held on to beat the Demon Deacons 71-70 on Tuesday night. After Chaundee Brown’s jumper rimmed out at the buzzer.

“When they got the last shot, we were just wishing for it to fall out,” Jones said. “They’d been getting a lot of rolls. So I feel like we had to get one as well.”

Jones added 13 points for a sluggish Duke team missing Williamson for a fourth straight game with a sprained right knee. Coach Mike Krzyzewski said he hopes Williamson will be healthy enough to play in next week’s ACC Tournament.

The Blue Devils (26-4, 14-3) overcame 41-per cent shooting and a 16-for-26 showing from the free-throw line to win their 10th straight in the in-state series.

Williamson’s absence, coupled with a rough game from No. 3 option Reddish left Barrett as essentially a one-man show for Duke. He was 11 of 23 from the field but was just 6 of 14 from the foul line.

The Blue Devils — 26-point favorites — trailed by 10 with 16 minutes remaining. And never led by more than three until the final three minutes.

“I know RJ’s beating himself up” for his free-throw shooting, Krzyzewski said. “But he played a great game, and without him, forget it. Forget it. We had a hard time scoring, and he missed free throws. But he made the biggest bucket of the game and if we’re in a similar situation, we’ll do the same thing.”

Brown had 21 points and 10 rebounds, and he pulled Wake Forest (11-18, 4-13) within 69-68 by hitting two free throws with 43.9 seconds left. Duke bled the shot clock. Before the left-handed Barrett hit a right-handed jumper in the lane to put the Blue Devils up by three with 17.3 seconds remaining.

Brandon Childress hit a layup with 7.4 seconds left, and Wake Forest had one last chance after Duke turned it over while trying to inbound the ball. Childress missed a 3-pointer with two seconds left and the rebound went to Brown. Whose short jumper spun around the back of the iron before falling out at the horn.

There weren’t many encouraging things in this one from the Blue Devils. Who once again stumbled early against a lower-division ACC team. But unlike the Georgia Tech and Boston College games — in which they fell behind at halftime before pulling away for convincing victories — they could never shake the pesky Demon Deacons.

Retiring Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade sat behind the scorer’s table. While a video played on the scoreboard during a timeout featured Krzyzewski thanking the 13-time All-Star for helping the U.S. national team win gold medals in 2004 and ’08.

Meanwhile, Krzyzewski said Williamson did “some basketball stuff” on Tuesday afternoon and is gaining confidence. But he doesn’t think his star freshman will be back for the regular-season finale at No. 3 North Carolina on Saturday night.

Peace,

Burke.

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