Greenwell saves day for Duke women's basketball despite 27 Blue Devil turnovers
The Blue Devils narrowly avoided an upset Friday thanks to the work of everybody’s favorite hero—Becky McBuckets.
Duke gave the ball in to redshirt freshman Rebecca Greenwell—whose teammates gave her the nickname—with 17 seconds remaining in the contest and her team trailing by two, looking for the sharpshooter to save the day for the Blue Devils against 13th-seeded Albany. Greenwell readily took advantage, sinking the contested trey—her sixth of the afternoon—and looking immune to the pressure of having the fate of the season resting on her shoulders.
“Number 23’s three-point shot made the play,” Albany head coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson said. “That was the game right there. That’s pretty tough to shoot such a [difficult] shot in that pressure situation. She killed us. That’s the game—it’s her, all by herself.”
Like many of the more memorable Duke contests in Cameron Indoor Stadium this season, Friday’s contest came down to the wire. With just 1:15 remaining in the contest, the Blue Devils trailed by four points and, despite playing at home, all the momentum was in the Great Danes’ favor.
Senior and four-time All-American Elizabeth Williams charged through the paint for an easy layup with 1:09 remaining to cut Albany’s lead to just two points. The Duke defense made a stop that arguably saved its season, awarding possession to the Blue Devils with just 32 seconds remaining on the clock.
“We had the rebounding advantage and we wanted to get the ball back,” Williams said. “We knew that we had the possession arrow so if we could just get a hand on it that would be really good for us. Good rebounding was important for us, especially down the stretch.”
On the next trip down the floor, Williams attempted to cut down the middle once again, but two Great Danes blocked her path to the basket. She was fouled with 22 seconds to play and stepped up to the charity stripe with her collegiate career hanging in the balance. After missing her first attempt, she intentionally shot wide right on her second, giving her teammates the opportunity to either tip in the miss or force a jump ball and retain possession.
Then Greenwell took over.
“I’m very proud of [Greenwell] for stepping up to make a huge play,” Duke head coach Joanne P. McCallie said. “As a first-time player in the tournament, I think she gave us a lot. When you make shots like she made, that deserves a lot.”
Despite a quiet opening few minutes, Greenwell heated up around the 12-minute mark of the first half, draining back-to-back treys to extend Duke’s lead to seven points. She managed to regain the Blue Devil lead with a triple with 4:05 left in the first half and put her team up by four with another one almost two minutes later, giving her four threes on the afternoon and her team the edge at the break.
But Greenwell seemingly went cold in the second half, scoring for the first time nearly 17 minutes into the period. For the second time in the contest, she calmly drained a shot from beyond the arc to reclaim Duke’s lead at the 3:30 mark of the second half. She would connect from distance one more time to win the game and secure the Blue Devils’ spot in the Round of 32 Sunday. Greenwell finished the contest with 20 points—18 of which came from behind the three-point line.
“I’d say I’m a rhythm shooter,” Greenwell said. “After I made my first one, I felt good. I always try not to think about it and I think that was very successful for me.”
Despite the fairy tale finish, the Blue Devils have a lot to focus on in the two days leading up to their contest in the Round of 32 against No. 5 seed Mississippi State. Duke committed 27 turnovers, resulting in 33 of Albany’s 52 points. If the Blue Devils could have taken better care of the ball—something McCallie has been stressing all season—then the contest likely would not have been so tight until the end.
Duke also needs to play with consistent intensity for the full 40 minutes of every contest. Throughout the season, Duke struggled with playing consistently for full games, often resulting in the Blue Devils faltering down the stretch. Although Duke avoided that fate today, it will have to address this issue when it takes on the Bulldogs Sunday.“We’re very pleased to be moving on and also to be improving on this ungodly number of turnovers,” McCallie said. “We have to learn how to deal with this kind of pressure. This team hasn’t had that experience yet.”