Duke center Mike Gminski scored 18 of his 25 points in the second half and dominated Wake Forest under the boards to lead Duke to an 85-77 victory yesterday and its first Atlantic Coast Conference tournament title since 1966.
Duke (23-6) advanced to the first round of the NCAA tournament March 12 at Charlotte, while Wake Forest, 19-10, is expected to get an NIT bid.
Duke outscored Wake, 14-4, at the outset of the second half to take a 51-46 lead, and the Demon Deacons trailed the rest of the afternoon.
Gminski scored six points in the 14-4 steak. Duke's 2-3 zone defense collapsed heavily inside during the second half and Wake, forced to bomb from long range, let the game slip away.
Rod Griffin, Wake's lethal inside threat, took only one shot and missed it during the 14-4 spurt as the Deacons had difficulty feeding him through Duke's waving arms.
There were seven ties and three lead changes in the first half, which ended with Wake Forest clinging to a 42-37 advantage.
Wake wrestled the early lead away from Duke during a stretch when Jim Spanarkel and Gene Banks were resting on Duke's bench.
Duke led, 19-18 on Spannarkel's five-foot shot, and after Banks missed a turnaround try, both went to the bench and Will Singleton hit from the corner to put Wake up, 20-19.
At the other end, Gminaki missed a hook over Griffith, who guarded Gminski most of the time.
The Deacons missed a shot by Frank Johnson and had two more blocked by Gminski, but kept possession of the ball.Center Larry Harrison and forward Leroy McDonald, both starters, came back into the lineup for Wake, and Griffin hit a leaping hook over Gminski for a 22-19 lead with 10:08 left in the half.
Gminski, who is six icnhes taller than Griffin, again missed a shot over the Wake forward usually not known for defensive prowess.
Griffin then followed Johnson's missed shot with a pump-fake on Gminski for a 24-19 advantage.
Jim Suddath hit an open 20-footer to cut Wake's margin to 24-21, and Banks and Spanarkel re-entered the game.
Gminski and Spanarkel combined for six points to pull Duke within a point at 28-27.
But Johnson, who made only two of seven in the half, connected from the top of the key to fatten Wake's lead to 30-27.
Duke wasted its next possession when Kenny Dennard erred on his 18-footer and a follow-up wouldn't drop.
McDonald then followed up his own missed 15-footer with a leaping shovel shot off the glass to make the Deacs comfortable again at 32-27.
Wake's front line made the difference in the first half as Griffin and McDonald hit 10 of their 16 shots, while Banks and Dennard were four-of-15.
Griffin had 14 at the half on six of eight from the floor and two-for-two at the foul line, and McDonald had 12 points.
Spanarkel carried the load for Duke, scoring 12 points without missing any of his five shots from the floor.
ACC NOTES: NCAA at-large bids are issued today, and North Carolina, regular season champion at 9-3 and 23-7 overall is expected to receive one to the Mideast or West regional . . . Rod Griffin is making a run for his second straight ACC player-of-the-year award but there has been heavy speculation all year that North Carolina's Phil Ford, already voted national player of the player by some bodies, will get the ACC award for the first time in his career. Ford is second in scoring with 21.1 points a game, first in assists with 169 and fifth in field goal percentage at .533. Griffin is first in scoring (21.4), first in rebound (10.1) and second in field goal percentage (.571) before yesterday's game.
Only three players in the history of the ACC have held both the scoring and rebounding titles and each was voted player of the year.
Griffin has not received as much exposure as Ford and, like Ford, is not terribly concerned about individual honors. Nonetheless, Griffin feels he deserves the award.
"Speaking selfishly," he said, "I think I deserve it. I think I played better this year than I did last year. If I really wanted to, I could score 30 points a game. But that would distract from us as a team. If Phil gets it, I'll congratulate him. But if I had to vote, I'd vote for me."
Gene Banks is an odds-on favorite to win rookie of the year over Maryland's Al King and Virginia's Jeff Lamp.