Duke basketball vs. Wake Forest: Scouting report, score prediction

Coming off a 43-point road win over Georgia Tech last Saturday, Duke basketball starts an important stretch of four games that begins Tuesday at home against Wake Forest.

The next four games for the Blue Devils (15-6, 6-4 ACC) are against some of the conference’s top teams, including the Demon Deacons (14-8, 6-5) on Tuesday (7 p.m., ESPN) and North Carolina (15-6, 7-3) at home this week before hitting the road to face Miami (16-5, 7-4) and Virginia (16-3, 8-2).

Playing without freshman Dariq Whitehead and Dereck Lively II on Dec. 20, Duke lost to Wake Forest 81-70 on the road. Duke is 10-0 at Cameron Indoor this season. The Demon Deacons have lost their past three games, including a 79-77 road loss to NC State on Saturday.

Here’s what else you need to know about Tuesday’s game:

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Focus remains on Wake Forest

During Monday’s ACC coaches' call with the media, there was an attempt to draw focus away from Duke’s matchup against Wake to look ahead to Saturday’s rivalry game against UNC.

It’s understandable. Duke-UNC is the greatest rivalry in college basketball, and after last year’s Final Four battle ended with a Tar Heels win and a career exit for Mike Krzyzewski, this matchup begins a new chapter with two young coaches in UNC’s Hubert Davis and Duke’s Jon Scheyer.

But Scheyer wouldn’t take the bait Monday. His focus, for now, remains on the Demon Deacons.

“I’ll talk about that game (UNC) once we get there, but for us, it’s all about Wake Forest,” Scheyer said. “They beat us. They are a heck of a team and this is a really important game and that’s where my head is at.”

Improved shooting

Against Georgia Tech, Duke shot a season-high 55.7% from the field, picking apart the opponent’s zone defense for 24 assists on 34 field goals. Before that, the Blue Devils made 48.3% of their shots in a loss to Virginia Tech, but it was the first time in five games that they finished a game above 40.3% shooting.

The improvement has come from better passing and movement, focusing on team chemistry and getting away from isolation plays.

That allowed for five players to score in double figures against the Yellow Jackets. It’s also helped that the 7-foot-1 Lively has continued to improve, putting together a nine-point, 10-rebound and three-block performance over the weekend. His presence inside opens space for Duke’s shooters.

Dariq Whitehead remains day-to-day

On Monday, Scheyer said Whitehead “had a really good day” on Sunday but that he was unsure if his freshman forward would be able to suit up against Wake Forest.

He said that if Whitehead was unable to practice on Monday that he wouldn’t play Tuesday. Whitehead suffered a strained lower left leg at Virginia Tech and did not play against Georgia Tech.

“We’ll make that determination in a little bit,” Scheyer said.

Duke basketball vs. Wake Forest score prediction

Duke 71, Wake Forest 69: Tuesday features one of the best ACC offenses (Wake) against one of the best defenses (Duke). The Blue Devils, however, are trending upward offensively while Wake has lost its past three games. Duke is at its best at home, and it’ll avoid a major letdown before facing UNC this weekend. But expect a close one.

This article originally appeared on The Fayetteville Observer: Duke basketball vs. Wake Forest: Scouting report, score prediction