DURHAM, N.C. (AP) -Loaded with young talent and athleticism, Wake Forest looked like a worthy No. 1 when it reached the top of the national rankings last month. Since then, the Demon Deacons have shown they still have some things to figure out.
After a 16-0 start to the season that included tough wins at Brigham Young and Clemson, Wake Forest has lost four straight road games. Its defense, ranked among the Atlantic Coast Conference's best all year, just gave up a season-worst 101 points in a loss at Duke. And while the Demon Deacons are still ranked 13th, they dropped into fifth place in the jumbled league race.
``We have a target on our back,'' junior L.D. Williams said after Sunday night's 101-91 loss to the Blue Devils. ``It's been that way since we started this run.''
ter a home win against preseason national-title favorite North Carolina followed by a 10-point win at Clemson a week later.
Yet the team is built around a core group - Williams, Jeff Teague, James Johnson and Ishmael Smith - that lost 10 of 12 road games last year, including a run of 10 straight in the ACC that dated to the previous season. They only recently learned how to win on the road; now they're often having to do it with the burden of being the favorite - or at least while wearing the target that Williams is talking about.
``This is the ACC and every game is going to be tough,'' Teague said. ``Everybody is fighting for position. It's the best conference. It doesn't matter if you have a bullseye.''
Regardless, they didn't handle that well in last month's loss at Georgia Tech - still the Yellow Jackets' only league win. Then came a 27-point loss at Miami and a defeat at North Carolina State in which the Demon Deacons faced a second-half deficit of 20 points. Georgia Tech, Miami and N.C. State are in the bottom third of the ACC standings.
This time, Wake Forest wasn't favored as it entered Cameron Indoor Stadium, where it had lost 10 straight games by an average margin of 21 points. Still, despite the inconsistent play against lower-tier teams, Wake Forest had won all four games against ranked opponents and had met every challenge.
ls on relatively equal footing with Duke for one of the few times in the past decade, but fell behind by 22 points and spent the rest of the game in catch-up mode. They got as close as two points in the second half and shot 61 percent for the game, yet the defense they had depended on all season faltered.
They led the ACC and ranked seventh nationally by holding teams to 38 percent shooting, but Duke shot 54 percent as Gerald Henderson (35 points) and Jon Scheyer (30 points) each had career-best days.
``If you had told me we'd score 91 points in Cameron,'' Smith said, ``I'd have said I liked our chances.''
In addition, touted freshman Al-Farouq Aminu, who came in averaging 13 points per game, finished with just seven points and took just three shots while looking a little lost in his debut in the famously hostile arena.
Coach Dino Gaudio figures it'll all go down as a learning experience for a team that, despite all the high expectations, has no NCAA tournament experience and hasn't finished at .500 in the ACC in four years.
``We started a freshman, two sophomores and two juniors,'' Gaudio said. ``They're tough kids, got a lot of character. The places we've been and places we've won: at BYU, (Duke) and Carolina at home, at Boston College, at Clemson. They're tough, young guys. I really like my team.''

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