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 season.
"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 Carolina.
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 jumper.
"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
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 sitting down.
Krzyzewski went to the different lineup based on how his players performed in two practices since a loss at Virginia Tech, with Davidson drawing
"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
"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."