DURHAM, N.C. (AP) -- In the first and likely only start of his
career, Patrick Davidson set the emotional tone for Duke. He
manhandled Wake Forest guard Chris Paul on the opening possession,
bumping him wildly before a foul was called.
He left the game after two minutes to a rousing ovation and got
a warm embrace from Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski, who left no
doubts about how important this game was.
"It's something I'll never forget," Davidson said.
J.J. Redick was pretty memorable himself.
The junior guard scored a career-high 38 points after Coach K
shook up the starting lineup, and reserve Lee Melchionni added 15
to lead the Blue Devils past No. 5 Wake Forest
102-92 Sunday night.
Duke (19-4, 9-4 Atlantic Coast Conference), coming off
consecutive losses for only the fourth time in the past eight
seasons, had its way with the Demon Deacons in the second half.
After trailing by two at the break, the Blue Devils (No. 8 ESPN/USA Today; No. 7 AP) shot 61 percent
in the final 20 minutes to reach their highest point total of the
"It was as good as our offense has looked all year, and it
wasn't one guy or just me," Redick said. "It was everybody."
Chris Paul had 27 points and Trent Strickland scored 17 for Wake
Forest (22-4, 10-3), which fell out of a first-place tie with North
Duke center Shelden Williams more than held his own in the
matchup with Eric Williams, finishing with 12 points, nine rebounds
and four blocks. And Melchionni, a junior who played very little
during his first two seasons, came up with big play after big play
when the Blue Devils needed it most.
He came in averaging only 6.8 points a game, but beat that total
during a 90-second span of the second half. The left-hander swished
a 3-pointer for a five-point lead, jumped in the passing lane for a
steal that led to his own dunk, then spun in the paint for a short
"We feed off our defense as an offensive team," Melchionni
said. "We really executed that."
On the other end, he drew a charge from Wake Forest guard Justin
Gray, who went to the bench with his fourth foul with 14½ minutes
left. Duke eventually went ahead 88-69 before the Deacons staged a
furious rally to make the final respectable, getting within seven
with 1:15 remaining.
The Blue Devils closed it out at the free throw line to win for
only the third time in the past six games. They last lost three in
a row to complete the 1995-96 season.
"It was the most competitive game we've been in in maybe a
couple of years," Krzyzewski said. "Both teams just wanted it so
badly. And they are just outstanding."
This one belonged to Redick, who hit his first six shots after
starting the game with some unfamiliar teammates. He and Shelden
Williams were with Reggie Love, Patrick Johnson and little-used
Davidson, with Daniel Ewing, Sean Dockery and Shavlik Randolph
Krzyzewski went to the different lineup based on how his players
performed in two practices since a loss at Virginia Tech, with
Davidson drawing particular praise.
"He was kind of the captain of that team that started,"
Krzyzewski said. "I loved how he started us out. Some of the great
things that happen in coaching are not just coaching Jason Williams
or Grant Hill. They're coaching Patrick Davidson in a moment like
that, and I'm glad I was able to share that moment with him."
As expected, Wake Forest coach Skip Prosser had a different view
of Davidson's "defense" on Paul.
"Would it have irritated you?" he said in a postgame session
with reporters. "You guys make that call, you saw what was going
on out there."
So did Paul.
"That's the oldest trick in the book," he said. "I've been
seeing that since junior high."
That was the start of a gritty, physical first half during which
the teams combined for 24 fouls, a total that included offsetting
technicals on Dockery and Wake Forest's Jamaal Levy. Later, the
usually unflappable Paul got a technical when he shoved the ball in
the face of Melchionni, helping Duke take its big lead.
"He fouled me, and I just reacted when I shouldn't have," Paul
said. "It was right in front of the referee. That was my fault."
Through it all, Redick continued making shots. He beat his
previous best of 34 points from last season and shot 9-of-15,
including 6-of-10 on 3-pointers.
"It doesn't mean anything to me, really," Redick said. "What
means something to me is that we won. This team was really
struggling, and we've had a rough couple of days. I would have the
same feeling right now if we'd won and I'd scored two."
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Mike Krzyzewski says he has good reason to be excited for next season thanks to a combination of Duke's incoming freshmen and a core of experienced upperclassmen.
Georgia guard Juwan Parker has been awarded a medical redshirt, leaving him with two years of eligibility, after missing the 2015-16 season with a partially torn Achilles tendon.
Forward Trevon Bluiett has withdrawn from consideration from the NBA draft and will return to Xavier for his junior season.