Preview: Duke (13-0) vs. Wake Forest (8-7)

Previewing the Blue Devils and Demon Deacons who will tip off on Wednesday night in Winston Salem.

Wake Forest DEMON DEACONS

8-7 Overall; 6-4 Home

PROJECTED STARTERS
G- 10 Mitchell Wilbekin (8.5 ppg, 1.8 rpg)
G- 00 Codi Miller-McIntyre (13.1 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 3.5 apg)
F- 11 Greg McClinton (4.5 ppg, 3.4 rpg)
F- 13 Darius Leonard (6.0 ppg, 2.7 rpg)
F- 02 Devin Thomas (12.1 ppg, 9.7 rpg.)

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STAR WATCH
Devin Thomas has been solid for the Deacons over the first half of the season, ranking second on the team in scoring and first in rebounds. And, coming into the game against Duke, he’s fresh off a career night against No. 5 Louisville. Against the Cardinals Thomas posted a career high 31 points along with 11 rebounds. He shot 11-of-14 from the field and because his program’s first player in more than four seasons to score more than 30 points in a single game.

The 6-foot-8 left handed post player has 14 double-doubles over the course of his three years in Winston Salem, and represents one of, if not the, biggest challenges for Duke center Jahlil Okafor since the game at Wisconsin. Thomas is a very good rebounder who uses strength and athleticism to establish and do damage in the deep post.

"Thomas is a different big guy who brings a lot of personality and talent," said Mike Krzyzewski. "They've played a really good schedule, and Danny has done a great job of giving his program a great foundation."

In the backcourt the Deacons rely heavily on Thomas’ classmate, Codi Miller-McIntyre who plays both point and scoring guard depending on the team’s needs. His biggest strength is going off the bounce and overpowering smaller defenders. A season ago he was among the league leaders in scoring, assists, field goal percentage and assist/turnover ratio.

“They beat us there at the end of last year, and so they played, Codi Miller-McIntyre and Thomas, both played great games against us," Krzyzewski said. "They provide the foundation for their good young group of players."

THE STORYLINE


FIRST CONFERENCE ROAD GAME:
On paper the Deacons should be overmatched. The Blue Devils are the best team Wake Forest will have faced to date, and Wake has struggled at times in Winston. The Deacs have already fallen to Iona, Delaware State, Minnesota, and Florida on their home court. Meanwhile, Duke has won 13 straight games - all by double figures and is favored by 16 points in Wednesday’s game.

Of course that was probably the lead up to last season’s matchup as well. And that game ended with Duke losing by 10 after going without a field goal for 5 critical minutes while allowing the Demon Deacons to reel off 17 straight points and go up by double figures.

"I'm not sure that ... we were as prepared from an emotional standpoint," said then associate head coach Steve Wojciechowski said. "I don't know if our guys had the needed edge to compete against a Wake Forest team that played their hearts out."

Therein lies the question facing this group of Blue Devils as they head west on Interstate 40. Can they match the intensity of what promises to be a fired up Wake Forest team coming off a performance that proved their ability to play with the nation’s elite teams?

Duke will need to get used to hostile environments quickly as the Blue Devils are beginning a stretch that will take them on road for six of the next eight games. Last year Coach K’s team didn’t react well to that portion of the schedule, losing five of nine conference road games.

Those road issues weren’t isolated to just last season either. Duke has lost its first ACC road game in four of the previous five seasons, falling to Georgia Tech (2010), Florida State (2011), N.C. State (2013) and Notre Dame (2014).


Question To Be Answered

Coming on line?
Following some rough outings the duo of Matt Jones and Rasheed Sulaimon played extremely well against Boston College combining for 19 points and seven rebounds while shooting 50 percent from the field and 5-of-7 from the perimeter. And while the offense was a nice boost, the duo changed the game with their defense.

“We are longer and taller perimeter and more athletic really with those two guys in,” said Krzyzewski. “It gives us a different look. I think once Grayson [Allen] gets experience, Grayson can do that, too. But Matt, Rasheed and Marshall really picked up the intensity, no question about it.”


Notebook:

- The Blue Devils look to begin the season with 14 straight wins for the seventh time in school history

- Duke enters the game ranked No. 2 in the AP Poll and the USA Today Coaches Poll. The Blue Devils are 119-18 when ranked No. 2 in the AP Poll. Wake Forest is unranked in both polls. Wednesday’s contest marks the 242nd meeting between the two schools, making it the most-played series among ACC opponents.

- Duke has won each of the first 13 games by 10 or more points, marking the first time in program history it has accomplished that feat. The Blue Devils have trailed for just 6:13 through the first 13 games of the season. Duke’s largest deficit this season has been four points.

- Quinn Cook has made at least one three-point field goal in each of the past 23 games. He is shooting 40.9 percent (56-of-137) from behind the arc in that stretch. Cook is second in the ACC in three-point field goals (2.62 3pg.) and fifth in three-point percentage (.395) this season.

- Tyus Jones is averaging 12.3 points, 4.6 rebounds, 5.3 assists and 1.6 steals per game over the past seven contests. He is 20-of-43 (.463) from the field and 38-of-45 (.844) from the foul line in that stretch. Jones has four double figure scoring games, including a pair of 20-point efforts, in that span.


They Said It:


"We can play with anybody with that effort. We've just got to be better with details and the scouting report. We have to learn how to finish games." - Devin Thomas



The Prediction

Thomas and Miller-McIntyre will provide challenges for Okafor and either Jones or Cook. Meanwhile it’s a safe bet that Lawrence Joel will be sold out with Wake’s best crowd to date, and possibly the season. In order to avoid a second straight loss to the Deacons the Blue Devils will need strong performances from at least one of Sulaimon and Jones, while also continually feeding Okafor. Look for the Blue Devils to be in a hard fought game for the first half before creating some distance midway through the second. Wake will likely fight back and make it a contest, but we like the Blue Devils to come out on top.

Duke - 79
Wake Forest - 70

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