Despite struggles offensively, Duke’s defense sparked the team to 58-26 victory over Virginia Tech to retain its spotless record. The No. 4 Blue Devils (16-0, 6-0 in the ACC) took an early lead, and never let the Hokies (7-10, 1-5) back in Wednesday night at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Duke’s full court press and zone defense overwhelmed Virginia Tech’s offense. Hokies’ head coach Dennis Wolff admitted that his team looked “shell shocked,” which the Blue Devils certainly used to their advantage.
With the score 16-12, Duke’s stifling defense held the Hokies scoreless for the final 10 minutes of the first half as the Blue Devils went on 24-0 run to erase any doubt of the outcome by halftime.
“We played different defenses, and the team responded well,” Blue Devil head coach Joanne P. McCallie said. “There was some great execution. I felt we got a whole lot better defensively during the game.”
The team racked up 19 steals and forced 26 Hokie turnovers during the physical game, with 23 Duke points resulting from turnovers.
Despite the score differential and overall dominance, this was not the same offensive output that the Blue Devils have produced all season.
“It’s a good lesson for us as a team,” McCallie said. “You had better play some defense. You had better rebound. Because sometimes the ball doesn’t fall the way you like it to fall.”
Duke’s 58 points is a season low, compared to an average of 80.4 points. Even though the team shot 45.8 percent during the first half, only just under the average for the season, complacency with the lead and an overall lack of concentration caused the Blue Devils to shoot only 29.3 percent in the second half.
“Since we have been so offensive-minded all season, sometimes it’s good to be a little humble there to know exactly what you need to do on offense,” McCallie said, “[But] I’m really concerned about assists. That’s a horrible number for us.”
McCallie has room for worry: While the team averages 18.5 for the season, Duke only put up eight assists on Wednesday.
Sophomore center Elizabeth Williams was the one bright spot on the Blue Devil offense. She nearly defeated the entire Hokie offense on her own with her game-leading 20 points.
While junior guard Chelsea Gray did not add as many assists as the team is used to per game, she did put up 12 points and grabbed seven steals from the Hokies.
The real test for Duke will come next week when they take on No. 3 Connecticut. The Huskies have had the Blue Devils’ number lately, besting them in their last five meetings. Connecticut plays a very physical game, and McCallie looks forward to a “dress rehearsal” for what Duke will hopefully face in the NCAA tournament.