- The performance of J.J. Redick was absolutely sensational. The junior sharpshooter connected on his first six shot attempts, and single handedly helped the Blue Devils survive an opening flurry from the Deacons before the regular starters returned to the court. After those initial 12 points, Redick didn't stop torching the Deacons for the rest of the night, hitting for a career best 38 points. His total line for the night read 8-of-19 from the field including 6-of-10 from the perimeter and 14-of-15 from the free throw line.
- Speaking of the starters, it leaked out a few hours before tip off that Coach K would be starting several seldom used players against the Deacons including Patrick Davidson and Patrick Johnson, leaving Daniel Ewing, and several other players on the bench. The motivation factor shifted the momentum in Duke's favor in a big way as Davidson quickly got the crowd and his team involved in the game by bodying up Chris Paul. A foul was correctly called, but the Deacon point guard was also sent a message that he was in for a night of physical play. The message seemed to rattle Paul.
- With Redick leading the charge, the Blue Devils' offensive game was as efficient as it has been all season long. Duke ended the night connecting on just over 57% of their field goal attempts and 55% of their perimeter attempts. Added to 79% free throw shooting, and you've got a sure fire recipe for success. The high percentages were due, in large part, to the Devils being able to get good looks at the basket thanks to much improved ball movement and being patient – something that was lacking against both Maryland and Virginia Tech.
- While he'll never be accused of being a lock down defender, Lee Melchionni came up with a couple of big plays at both ends of the floor. Defensively he drew a couple of charges, while providing a spark on the offensive end, hitting 5-of-6 from the field including 3-of-4 from the perimeter. He also added three rebounds in 23 minutes of action.
- Along the same lines, freshman guard DeMarcus Nelson rebounded in a big way after logging just four minutes against Virginia Tech. Against Wake, Nelson had a slow start, drawing a charge and then turning the ball over on his first two touches. He looked to the sideline as if he would come out for those two mistakes, but thankfully was left in the game. He then knocked down a three pointer and converted in the lane and was rolling from there. At 6'3 he was constantly mixing it up inside, and came up with several rebounds, earning a start I the second half. Shortly into the second period, Nelson nearly brought down the house with a thunderous dunk attempt over Eric Williams that didn't go down. Still, the kind of confidence and aggressive play is what drives this kid. He's never going to be a "Rah-Rah" kind of player who wears his emotions on his sleeve, but he's always intense and always looking to win.
- Sticking with the "other" players theme, the return to form of Reggie Love proved to be yet another boost for the Blue Devils as the newly minted captain added six points and made a couple of key plays that don't show up in the box score. With his physicality and speed, Duke had an advantage against the taller Deacons.
- The remaining two of the big three, Daniel Ewing and Shelden Williams had nice games as well. Ewing, for the first time in a while, took less than 10 shots, but hit five of them while allowing the offense to set up and run smoothly. In the previous few games the senior had a tendency to take shots early and it really threw a wrench in the offensive flow. Meanwhile, Williams ended up with 12 points, nine rebounds, and a handful of blocks while neutralizing Wake's inside presence of Eric Williams and Jamal Levy.
What Went Wrong
- Another opponent out-rebounded the Blue Devils as Wake won the battle of the boards by four. While this wasn't as bad as the game against Virginia Tech, it's still a cause for concern as the season winds down. One potential cause was the absence of Duke's only other ACC-caliber big man, Shavlik Randolph, for most of the game. The Raleigh native earned just three minutes against the Deacons, leaving Williams to play 39 of 40 minutes. Moving forward the big man simply has to improve his intensity and hustle. But, first and foremost, he's got to stay on the floor and revert back into the fearless kid that was so impressive four years ago.
- There is no doubt that Chris Paul is a sensational talent. In fact he's probably the best pure point guard in the country. So why is it that he continually finds himself in the middle of skirmishes in nearly every Wake Forest game? Against Duke he should have been ejected after earning a technical for hitting Melchionni in the head, and kicking Sean Dockery when he was down – as one ACC publication put it: "Chris Paul is the master of the subtle cheap shot". Thankfully this time it was correctly called. It was a common theme for the Deacons all night as the physical play landed both teams in the bonus five minutes into the game. Rather than getting sucked into that kind of play, Duke used Wake's antics to fuel the fire, which ultimately led to the victory.
Player of the Game:
Another no-brainer here. J.J. Redick was simply the best player on the floor Sunday night. In two games he's now hit for 35.5 point per contest against the Deacons. For his 38 point performance on Sunday, he's our TDD Player of the Game.
There's no rest for the weary as the Blue Devils head to Atlanta to face a revitalized Georgia Tech team that is healthy with the return of BJ Elder. Duke handled the Jackets in Cameron, but that was without Elder and with the momentum of the crowd. After a highly emotional game behind them, it will be crucial for the Blue Devils to avoid another game where the emotion and energy is lacking. If Duke plods along through the game in Atlanta, it'll be another bad loss.