It was a tale of two halves on Friday night. In the first, Florida State battled the Duke women's basketball team every step of the way. In the second, Duke exploded, putting up 56 points en route to a 96-76 victory.
The 25th-ranked Blue Devils' 56 points were just nine short of the Duke record for a half and the best in at least three years. The team also tied its own record for highest number of three-point field goals made with 11, a mark set against Pepperdine in 1995.
In the first half, Duke was down almost from the start. The first two points, free throws by Michele VanGorp, marked Duke's first and last lead for over 15 minutes. Florida State's Wendy Hampton scored three consecutive times to put her team up by five.
Every score Duke made was answered and then some by the feisty Seminoles. VanGorp or Payton Black made layups, but the next score always came from the Florida State side. Only once in the first ten minutes did the Blue Devils score twice in a row.
Midway through the half, after a game-high deficit of seven, Duke began to fight back. Nicole Erickson received a pass from Black, turned, and drained a three-point jumper, leaving Duke down by just two. After unsuccessful possessions by both sides, Peppi Browne hit a 14-foot jumper to tie it up. The Seminoles countered with an easy layup, and another Erickson jumper left the score at 25 all.
With less than five minutes left to go in the half, VanGorp scored on a layup that gave Duke the lead. The lead changed hands again-four more times before the half was through-but when the halftime buzzer sounded, Duke headed to the locker room with a five-point edge, 40-35.
The game was close and hard-fought, but enough to remove worries of a letdown after last Monday's loss to UNC.
"Sometimes after you play a really tough game you come up short," junior guard Hilary Howard said. "There's an emotional and physical letdown. We had that a little bit in the first half."
The seconds half erased any traces of that first half letdown. A halftime discussion stressed the importance of getting the ball inside and not being forced to settle for three-point attempts, but the Blue Devils did exactly the opposite. Just a few minutes into the half, they took a three-pointer and made it. And made it, and made it, and made it again, not stopping until they had notched seven treys for the half.
"I think we were very focused to begin the second half," head coach Gail Goestenkors said. "We knocked down some big shots early and really started to... get them back on their heels."
Those 21 points accounted for less than half of the Blue Devils' prolific second-half scoring. Nine points were earned from free throws, and 13 other field goals-layups, jump shots, and a few baseline points by Browne.
Duke-behind for nearly three quarters of the first half- never lost the lead in the second. Florida State earned a respectable number of points, due to their 54.5 percent shooting from the field, but Duke's greater number of chances allowed it to stay ahead, stretching the lead from five to 24, before finally settling at 20 points.
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"I was very pleased to come out with a 20 point win, surprised actually," Goestenkors said. "I thought it was going to be a dog fight the entire way, especially going into the locker room at hal-time."
Duke's win brings it to 11-5, 4-2 on the year, while Florida State drops to 5-10, 1-5. Duke holds on to a 3rd-place conference standings, following North Carolina State and Clemson. Duke meets the Wolfpack tonight at 7 in Raleigh.