Although the Blue Devils have put themselves in position to finish in the top four in the ACC, they have done so with one of their best players struggling from the field.
Redshirt junior Rebecca Greenwell finally found her shooting stroke Thursday evening, which could spell trouble for the rest of the league.
No. 15 Duke used another staunch defensive effort to shut down Clemson 65-37 Thursday night at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Despite getting out to a quick 13-2 lead by forcing five turnovers in the game’s first four minutes, the Blue Devils struggled to pull away with the Tiger defense clogging up driving lanes. But sparked by Greenwell, who finished with a game-high 21 points, Duke used an 8-0 run midway through the third period to create some separation before dominating in the fourth quarter.
“It was just a good team win. I just tried to take what the defense gave me, but everyone contributed,” Greenwell said. “We did a great job of finding each other and Lexie [Brown] did a great job with seven assists, so I think it was a solid win. I’m proud of us.”
Clemson focused on defending Greenwell’s backcourt mate in Brown, who had four turnovers but still finished with 13 points on 5-of-9 shooting and seven assists, frequently finding open teammates when the defense crowded her.
Among the beneficiaries was Greenwell, who looked much more aggressive from the opening tip.
Early in the contest, the Owensboro, Ky., native—who entered the game shooting 33.3 percent in conference action—came off a screen near the top of the key and nailed her first attempt from beyond the arc. After getting off to a hot start with 13 points in the first half, she finished 8-of-13 from the field in her first 20-point game since the team’s Dec. 4 upset against then-No. 3 South Carolina.
It was also her first time this season shooting better than 50 percent from the field in ACC play.
In addition to getting back in a groove on the offensive end, Greenwell made major contributions on defense. She worked with fellow guards Brown and Kyra Lambert to often swarm Clemson’s ball handlers and force the ball out of the hands of the Tiger playmakers, leading to 19 turnovers and several rushed shots.
The Blue Devils (19-4, 7-3 in the ACC) held Clemson without a field goal the final 6:47 of the third quarter, allowing the home team to stretch an 11-point advantage to 19 entering the fourth quarter. Duke then went on a 15-2 run spanning most of the final period to earn its second straight 28-point win and match its regular-season win total from all of last regular season early in February.
“We just tried to harass them,” Greenwell said. “We forced them into passing some bad passes that led to some turnovers, but we just really tried to focus on our ball pressure.”
The Tigers (12-11, 1-9) shot just 27.7 percent as Duke’s aggressive matchup zone defense shut down another opponent. Greenwell even grabbed her 500th career rebound in the first quarter as the Blue Devils cleaned up the glass nicely after struggling in that area in recent weeks.
For the second time this season, head coach Joanne P. McCallie’s team held a Power-5 conference opponent to fewer than 40 points, and six of Duke’s last seven opponents have not cleared the 60-point mark. If Greenwell can continue shooting well to complement Brown, the Blue Devils could become even more dangerous heading into the final part of the season, with their defense giving them a chance to win almost every game they play.
“We might not have gotten as many steals as sometimes we can get or deflections, but overall it was a great team defensive effort,” McCallie said. “That’s important because you never know how the game goes, you’ve got to control that end.”
Another bright spot for Duke was the play of freshman Leoanna Odom. The versatile forward has emerged as a nice secondary scoring threat and disruptive defender, finishing with eight points and five rebounds.
Odom was extremely active, rolling to the basket off pick-and-rolls, getting her long arms in passing lanes and even blocking a long 3-pointer early in the game to send the crowd to its feet.
Two Blue Devil reserves who also primarily make their mark with hustle plays and defense—Faith Suggs and Crystal Primm—made an impact as well, combining for 27 minutes to give Brown and Greenwell some much-needed rest.
“We just wanted more energy because when the game is slowed down, you play a lot of defense and sometimes your energy can go in and out,” McCallie said. “I am very confident in our bench.”
Following another strong defensive effort, Duke will take on Virginia on the road Sunday afternoon.