WINSTON-SALEM — Wake Forest had survived close games this season, even twice winning on a last-second shot. It was enough to have coach Steve Forbes deliver a message that resonated before playing No. 14 Duke.
“Don’t play to survive,” Forbes said. “Play to win.”
The Demon Deacons responded by taking down the Blue Devils 81-70 on Tuesday night, turning in a confident performance that had them leading nearly the entire game. And it ended with the Demon Deacons (9-4, 1-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) being able to celebrate throughout a final possession with a win well in hand.
Tyree Appleby had 18 points and eight assists to lead Wake Forest, while Cameron Hildreth added 16 points and nine rebounds despite playing through a banged-up wrist that required a mid-game tape job.
“I love winning, I’m a competitor,” Hildreth said. “So as much pain as I am in, it doesn’t matter. I’m going to keep fighting and do whatever I can to help my team win.”
Wake Forest led 39-30 at halftime, then pushed that margin to 15 points. More impressively, the Demon Deacons never let the Blue Devils — playing short-handed with two top freshmen out — closer than seven after halftime.
That meant repeatedly getting into the paint to put pressure on Duke. Or avoiding live-play turnovers when the Blue Devils tried some traps to speed up play and force the Demon Deacons into mistakes.
It was a strong response from a team coming off a 24-point loss at Rutgers, with Wake Forest shooting 49.1% behind five double-figure scorers.
Jaylen Blakes scored a career-high 17 points to lead Duke (10-3, 1-1), who never showed the strong-defense, tough-rebounding form that had carried the start of Jon Scheyer’s coaching tenure. Duke shot 44%, but made just 8 of 27 3-pointers (29.6%).
It didn’t help that starting freshman big man Dereck Lively II and rookie wing Dariq Whitehead were out due to non-COVID illnesses. That essentially shrunk Duke’s rotation to seven players who were unable to consistently get stops or keep the Demon Deacons off the glass.
“I thought when we missed some shots, I thought that impacted our defense, and taken aback by it,” Scheyer said. “And we can’t be that fragile. We need to be tough-minded and defend, which is who we’ve been most of the year.”
By the final seconds, Hildreth was motioning to the crowd for more noise as he let the ball bounce in front of him, while Damari Monsanto started high-fiving fans in courtside seats before the horn had even sounded.
North Carolina Central 81, The Citadel 74
DURHAM — Justin Wright’s 24 points helped North Carolina Central defeat The Citadel 81-74 on Tuesday night.
Wright shot 8 of 10 from the field and 8 for 10 from the line for the Eagles (6-7). Daniel Oladapo added 21 points and also had nine rebounds. Ja’Darius Harris recorded eight points.
The Bulldogs (5-7) were led in scoring by Austin Ash, who finished with 23 points. Stephen Clark added 14 points for Citadel.
Western Carolina 117, Toccoa Falls 50
CULLOWHEE — Tyzhaun Claude scored 21 points as Western Carolina beat Toccoa Falls 117-50 on Tuesday.
Claude added 10 rebounds for the Catamounts (7-6). Tyler Harris scored 13 points and Marlow Gilmore had 13 points and three blocks.
The Screaming Eagles were led by Anthony Williams II, who posted 25 points. Tyler Glover added seven points for Toccoa Falls. Jamariyus Pringle also recorded four points and nine rebounds.
No. 18 Indiana 96, Elon 72
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Race Thompson had 18 points and 11 rebounds, and shorthanded No. 18 Indiana beat Elon 96-72 on Tuesday night.
The Hoosiers were missing their two leading scorers. Center Trayce Jackson-Davis (16.4 points per game) sat for precautionary reasons with nagging back and hand injuries, and point guard Xavier Johnson (9.9 points) was sidelined by a foot injury.
But the Hoosiers (9-3) had too much depth against the visitors from the Colonial Athletic Association as they ended a two-game skid. Indiana was coming off losses to top-10 foes Arizona in Las Vegas and Kansas on the Jayhawks’ home floor.
“A big part of the season is ahead and honestly it’s about making guys come together,” said Indiana’s Miller Kopp, who had 13 points. “I always say when the spider webs unite, you can tie up a line. At the end of the day, it’s just about getting guys to understand that we need everybody.”
Thompson made 9 of 13 shots for his ninth career double-double and first of the season. He came in averaging 7.9 points and 5.3 rebounds.
Freshman Jalen Hood-Schifino had 17 points and seven assists for the Hoosiers.
Max Mackinnon led Elon (2-11) with 19 points and Sean Halloran added 15.
“We’ve had some moments where we’ve looked really good,” Elon coach Billy Taylor said. “I’m proud of the guys for the way we fought in the second half.”
The Phoenix kept the game close early because they made six of their first nine attempts from beyond the arc, but they missed their last five 3s of the first half and Indiana closed on a 20-4 run for a 47-29 lead. Elon never got closer than 14 points in the second half. Woodson didn’t play his starters for the last 5:16.
Nebraska 75, Queens 65
LINCOLN, Neb. — Sam Griesel and Keisei Tominaga combined to score 31 points to help power Nebraska past Queens University of Charlotte 75-65 Tuesday night as part of the three-game Battle in the Vault event at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
The Cornhuskers (7-6) came into the game after three straight losses, to No. 14 Indiana, No. 4 Purdue and a 71-56 loss to Kansas State in the Wildcat Classic in Kansas City.
Nebraska opened the game with an 11-0 run and led by 15 after Derrick Walker knocked down a jumper with just under nine minutes left in the half, 24-9, and held a 43-26 advantage at intermission. The Royals rallied in the second half but got their deficit under 10 points only once in the second half.
Griesel scored 16 points to lead the Cornhuskers, his first game scoring in double figures since posting 18 in a win over Creighton. Tominaga scored 15 points off the bench and has now scored in double figures in six of Nebraska’s last eight games. Derrick Walker finished with 13 points, six rebounds and six assists. Juwan Gary had 11 points and seven boards and Emmanuel Bandoumel contributed 10 points and eight rebounds.
Nebraska hit 31 of 59 from the field (52.5%) and was 6 of 23 from distance. The Cornhuskers had 15 assists on 31 made baskets and held a 41-35 advantage on the boards.
Kenny Dye and AJ McKee each scored 13 points to lead the Royals (9-3). Quan McCluney added 10 points off the bench.
Queens University, a long-time Division II power, is in its first season as a Division I program and a member of the Atlantic Sun Conference and came into the contest on a four-game win streak.