After a hard-fought overtime loss to No. 12 Texas A&M, the Blue Devils responded with an explosive offensive showing to earn their third win of the season.

Sophomore Azurá Stevens dominated the Black Knights in the post all afternoon as No. 14 Duke overcame an early nine-point deficit to take down Army 72-61 in an intense Sunday battle at Cameron Indoor Stadium. The Blue Devils struggled early on, but turned things around in the second half thanks to a commanding performance from Stevens, who set a new career-high with 32 points on 14-of-18 shooting and picked up her third straight double-double with 14 rebounds.

“They’re a team of a lot of seniors and a lot of experience and we didn’t do the things we wanted in the first half,” Duke head coach Joanne P. McCallie said. “I thought in the second half our team was very strong, defended them very differently and really just did a lot of good things in the game.”

Army (3-1) began the game on a hot shooting streak, making its first three 3-point attempts to put itself ahead of the Blue Devils 9-6. Duke (3-1) came out aggressive on defense, consistently trapping the Black Knights in the halfcourt, but got in foul trouble early as the team picked up five team fouls in the first five minutes.

Kelsey Minato led the charge for Army, scoring 13 points in the first quarter alone on 3-of-3 shooting from downtown, more than half of her team’s total for the period. Minato’s impressive shooting was contagious—the Black Knights shot 83 percent from long range in the first quarter while also going 58 percent from the field as they jumped out to an early 23-14 lead.

“You can’t let people get hot like [Minato did]…. She’s a tremendous guard, [a] really good player,” McCallie said. “I didn’t think that our pressure was very good in the first half and all.”

As the period came to a close, Stevens—who McCallie called a “silent killer”—notched an easy inside score and followed it with an impressive steal leading to a breakaway layup that narrowed Army’s lead to 23-18 in the quarter’s final seconds.

The Blue Devil offense featured excellent passing throughout the game, allowing the team to consistently find Stevens for open looks inside while the Black Knights scrambled to keep up with Duke’s ball movement. The Blue Devils’ perimeter game struggled Sunday—the team shot just 17.6 percent from long range—so the sophomore’s career performance came at the perfect time.

“I think conditioning is a big part of it. Just being able to attack the entire game and not just one quarter or one half, being able to do that in both halves,” Stevens said. “Angela [Salvadores] was great at finding me inside the seams and Kyra [Lambert] as well…I think the team mindset really just helps us out.”

As the second quarter began, the Blue Devils continued to attack the basket and find opportunities inside, but failed to turn these opportunities into points. Army consistently fouled Stevens and fellow forward Lyneé Belton in the paint, but the duo struggled to be effective at the free-throw line, going 1-of-7 in the first half. As a result, the period came to a close with Duke facing its largest halftime deficit of the season, trailing the Black Knights 34-31.

The Blue Devils bounced back quickly from their first-half difficulties with an explosive offensive outburst. Stevens picked up where she left off, notching a pair of free-throws followed by an easy layup to put Duke ahead 35-34—its first lead of the game since the opening minute. Stevens’ efforts were quickly followed by a Crystal Primm put-back off the glass, expanding the Blue Devil lead to five and forcing an Army timeout with 6:58 left in the third quarter.

Increased pressure and trapping from Duke’s defenders made it difficult for the Black Knights to re-establish its rhythm, as the team went 2-of-12 from the floor during the third period after shooting 46.2 percent in the first half. Minato went cold—the senior scored just five points in the second half—and the rest of the Black Knights struggled too. Army scored just five points in the quarter.

The Blue Devils’ offensive tempo continued to pick up as the third frame came to a close, with a spurt of points coming at the end of the period. Thanks to another nine points from Stevens—including an energetic and-one layup in the quarter’s final seconds—Duke found itself with a 50-39 lead by the period’s end. 

The Black Knights made a late push early as the fourth quarter began—cutting Duke’s lead to five with 7:57 remaining— but a Stevens layup and a 3-pointer by Salvadores quickly erased any progress made by Army, stretching the Blue Devils’ lead back to 10.

One of the games most exciting plays came during a fast break transition where Salvadores flipped a no-look behind-the-back pass to Rebecca Greenwell. The backcourt duo joined Stevens in double-figures, finishing with 13 points apiece.

“It was a great pass and luckily I finished it for her,” Greenwell said. “She’s really fun to play with and every time she has the ball I just try and get near her because I know that she can find a way to get the ball to players. She’s great at passing.”

Duke heads to Cancún, Mexico, for a three-day tournament during Thanksgiving break. The Blue Devils will take on Idaho, Iowa State and Texas State.