With 17 minutes left in the second half and the shot clock winding down, sophomore guard Abby Waner received a pass several feet beyond the three-point line and calmly swished the trey, giving new meaning to the word "downtown."
Waner's hot touch from long range helped her reach a career-high with 27 points and, more importantly, paced No. 3 Duke (17-0, 3-0 in the ACC) in its 83-51 victory over Georgia Tech (10-6, 1-2) Wednesday night in Cameron Indoor Stadium.
"With their traps, they left the backside and deep corners open," Waner said. "I guess it was just one of those nights."
Waner's shooting performance rubbed off on the rest of the Blue Devils, as Duke shot 62.5 percent from three-point range, making 10 of its 16 attempts.
"We're a good shooting team," head coach Gail Goestenkors said. "This offense will continue to grow once everyone finds their niche."
Like in many of its games this year, Duke quickly built a lead to take control of the game.
The Blue Devils raced out to a 16-5 advantage on Lindsey Harding's three pointer with 13:25 left in the first half. A 7-0 run spanning just over two minutes and ending with 5:04 left in the first half expanded the lead to 17. Waner's layup with a little more than a minute left in the first half put the Yellow Jackets in a 20-point hole.
Duke's sharp-shooting performance offset the team's inability to hang onto the ball. The Blue Devils committed a season-high 24 turnovers, many of which were unforced errors.
"The one area we have to clean up is turnovers," Goestenkors said.
Although Duke gave away possessions numerous times, the Blue Devils were able to force 26 turnovers of their own and turn them into 37 points. Duke's pressure defense allowed both Harding and Waner to convert easy layups at the other end of the floor.
"I felt in rhythm," said Harding, who scored 16 points and dished out five assists. "I was more focused offensively and kept attacking the basket."
After a disappointing defensive effort against Virginia Tech in their last game, the Blue Devils showcased their defensive intensity throughout the game Wednesday. Although Duke allowed Georgia Tech to shoot 40 percent-the highest of any of the team's opponents this season-the Blue Devils' ability to force turnovers kept yet another opponent below 60 points.
"It was a much improved effort on defense," Goestenkors said. "At the end of the first half and the end of the game, our substitutes were not focused, but overall, I was pleased with our defense."
Both the high Yellow Jacket shooting percentage and the large number of turnovers were overshadowed by Waner's career night. The sophomore's six three-pointers are the third most for an individual in school history.
"It's all about having confidence in my shot," Waner said. "If I don't make one, I just have to forget and move on to the next shot."
Throughout the game, Duke's outside shooters were freed up by a Yellow Jacket defense focused on stopping center Alison Bales down low. Numerous Georgia Tech defenders harassed Bales on every possession, and the Duke senior was held to just seven points.
With so much of the defensive focus on Bales in the paint, Harding and Waner could dismantle the Yellow Jacket defense.
Because of the showdown against defending national champion and top-ranked Maryland looming Saturday, the Blue Devils hope to come out with the same kind of intensity and offensive performance.
"We just have to focus," Harding said. "Defensively we're doing a great job. If Abby just scores 27 again, it'll be great."
Tickets for Saturday's game against Maryland sold out Wednesday morning, and they also did for the Feb. 25 home contest against No. 2 North Carolina.... Maryland announced Tuesday that it had sold out the Comcast Center for the first time in the building's history for Duke's Feb. 18 visit.... Duke and Maryland split their series, 2-2, last season.
Get The Chronicle straight to your inbox
Signup for our weekly newsletter. Cancel at any time.