At halftime of Friday night's game against Florida State, the women's basketball team was happy to have a five- point lead. The Blue Devils had rallied from a seven-point deficit and survived an opening half that saw six lead changes.
In the locker room, Duke talked about pounding the ball inside, capitalizing on the Seminoles' lack of size. The Blue Devils' front court was bigger and stronger than its FSU counterpart, and had racked up 11 more offensive rebounds in the first half.
"We were scoring easily in the first half from the inside and I thought we were settling for the three-point shot when we really didn't need to," Duke coach Gail Goestenkors said. "I didn't think they could stop us in the inside."
What happened next was not exactly a part of the coach's plan.
In the first 4:28 of the second half, the Blue Devils were 4-of-4 behind the arc. The three-point barrage propelled a seven-minute, 24-7 Duke run to start the half and finish off the 'Noles.
For the half, the Blue Devils drained 7-of-13 three-pointers, giving them 11 for the game. That number tied a school record, and as a team, Duke shot nearly 46% from three-point land. Junior guards Nicole Erickson and Hilary Howard each had four threes on the night-a personal best for Howard.
The explanation behind the solid shooting was passing. The Blue Devils played a solid inside-outside game, creating wide-open shots for the guards. The Blue Devils assisted on 10 of their 11 three-pointers. Perhaps more impressive is that five of those assists came from front court players.
"We weren't forcing [shots], we were just getting the ball in and we were wide open on the outside," Howard said. "The guards did a good job of taking what we had."
The Blue Devils racked up 25 assists for their 35 field goals on the evening. In its second-half opening spurt, Duke had only two unassisted buckets. Erickson had a game-high seven assists to go along with her team-high 18 points. Howard added six assists of her own.
"They have a lot of weapons, and they did a great job of using each one of them," FSU coach Sue Semrau said. "If we stopped their inside game, they went to their outside game, and they just played a tremendous game."
This mixture of inside-outside is evident in the play of junior forward Payton Black, who did not start for the first time since her freshman season. In just 15 minutes of play she tied a personal record with four assists-three of which led to threes-and had 17 points in the paint.
"Payton did a great job," Goestenkors said. "She came in, she gave us a spark, attacked the basket and she made some great passes to our guards for three-pointers. I thought she played a tremendous game."
Get Overtime, all Duke athletics
Signup for our editorially curated, weekly newsletter. Cancel at any time.
Duke's passing game created a versatile offense that the Seminole defense could not stop. In the second half the 'Noles could not make the necessary adjustments to stop the Blue Devils. Duke had five players score 12 or more points.
On the other side of the ball, FSU was unable to create a similar threat. The Seminoles had a mere eight assists compared to 19 turnovers. The Blue Devils were able to convert these turnovers into 22 points.
Florida State's entire offensive game plan rested on the shoulders of forward Latavia Coleman and guard Jen Robinson. While the duo did an outstanding job creating plays for themselves-they combined for 39 points-the two-woman offense could only stay competitive for one half.