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January 28, 2009On an exhilarating inbounds play with only seconds left James Johnson scored the game-winning basket as Wake Forest knocked off a top-five opponent in the Joel Coliseum for the second time this season, defeating number one Duke 70-68 to improve to 16-1 overall and 4-1 in ACC play. Duke drops to 18-2 and 5-1 in league play.
Wake Forest jumped out to a 44-36 halftime lead behind 11 points from Al-Farouq Aminu and very strong defense that held Duke to only 31 percent shooting and only 17 percent from beyond the arc.
The Demon Deacons continued to expand the lead in the second half, leading by as much as 13 at the nine minute mark. It looked like Wake Forest might run away with it, but coach Mike Krzyzewski and the Blue Devils had other ideas. Over the next eight minutes Duke went on a 20-7 run, tying the game with only 11 seconds remaining.
Down the stretch Duke hit big shot after big shot while Wake Forest failed to hit their free throws. When Duke missed a three point shot that would give them the lead with 22 seconds left, James Johnson looked to have an easy rebound which would have given Wake the ball and forced Duke to foul. However, instead of going for the rebound aggressively, he stood still and allowed Jon Scheyer to race around him and grab the ball, setting up Duke's game-tying possession.
In almost no time Johnson redeemed himself, scoring the game winning basket with less than a second on the clock on a beautifully drawn up and equally well executed inbound play with less than a second remaining.
"We were going to switch everything, but you have to body up," said Duke's Krzyzewski. "We wanted the ball to go to the outside, so you'd switch to take the inside away. We didn't do it. If they were going to do anything, we wanted them to make a jump shot .We were not physical on that play. We deserve to lose if you don't do that."
"We played well enough in the last 10 minutes to win. I don't think we played well enough over the 40 minutes to win," remarked Krzyzewski.
"We were very fortunate to win," said Wake head coach Dino Gaudio. "We just had the ball the last possession and were able to score."
"That was the way we drew it up. The kids did a great job executing the play. It was not something we have in our playbook; we were drawing in the sand a little bit, but they did a great job."
After struggling defensively in last week's loss to Virginia Tech, Wake's defense was as good as it has been at any point this season against Duke. Duke was held to only 33% shooting on the game and Wake forced 15 turnovers. Although Wake could have boxed out better to prevent second chance points, the team was generally happy with their defensive performance.
"I thought our defense was really good. Someone said to me that this was their lowest field goal percentage of the year. I thought we did a good job of guarding the three-point line," said Gaudio.
On the other end of the floor it was not a typical performance for the Demon Deacons. Duke held Jeff Teague in check, as he only scored 11 points and had two assists. Instead, Wake had big contributions from Al-Farouq Aminu, Ishmael Smith, and David Weaver.
Weaver contributed nine points off the bench, grabbed three rebounds, and blocked a shot. With Chas McFarland sidelined for a decent part of the second half, his contributions were invaluable to the victory.
Aminu led the team in scoring with 15 points and also had 10 rebounds for his seventh double-double of the season. With Teague not having his best performance, Aminu stepped up to lead the team and played an excellent game.
"My team had my back and I was hitting early. Since I was hitting early they kept feeding me. On this team there can be a new scoring leader every game and that's just how we play," said Aminu.
Off the bench Ishmael Smith had one of his best games of the season. He had seven points and led the team with four assists. With Duke keying in on Teague, Smith did an excellent job handling the ball and directing the offense.
Smith and Aminu teamed up for the play of the game and potentially one of the most impressive plays of the season. On a fast break with 11:55 remaining in the second half Smith found himself one-on-one with a defender as he approached the basket. Instead of trying to go up with the ball himself, Smith made a bounce pass between his legs to a trailing Aminu who finished with a huge dunk.
"I knew it was a for sure pass; if I could just shield off Nolan Smith then Farouq had an easy basket following me. I wanted to get the crowd going a little bit," said Smith.
The victory is Wake's fifth in their last six games against Duke at home. Wake plays next at Georgia Tech on Saturday.