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Duke upset at Boston College

Carolyn Swords grabbed nine rebounds of her own and helped clear the paint for her teammates in Boston College’s surprise win Thursday.
Carolyn Swords grabbed nine rebounds of her own and helped clear the paint for her teammates in Boston College’s surprise win Thursday.

CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. —  It had been barely three days since Duke had moved up two spots to No. 6 in the rankings, with a streak of 12 straight wins interrupted only by a loss to powerhouse Connecticut. And Boston College looked likely to become victim No. 13, as the Eagles had struggled with consistency en route to a record barely above .500.

Duke’s undefeated start to its ACC schedule came to an end Thursday night in Chestnut Hill, as sloppy play doomed Duke to a 61-57 defeat at the hands of Boston College (13-10, 4-4 in the ACC).  The Blue Devils (18-4, 6-1) struggled on the boards, and looked entirely out of sync against the Eagles’ zone defense. 

In total, Duke turned the ball over 20 times, and the Blue Devils had just nine assists on their 21 field goals. The .45 assist-to-turnover ratio was Duke’s worst of the season in ACC play. 

From the outset, the Blue Devil offense failed to complete crisp passes, and never looked comfortable attacking the Boston College zone.

Eagle head coach Sylvia Crawley said that the Eagles played man-to-man defense only on inbounds plays, and that they even utilized some box-and-one defense to neutralize Duke’s leading scorer, Jasmine Thomas­­­—a strategy that proved effective. It was more than 12 minutes into the game before Thomas got her first points, and she shot just 6-of-17 from the floor for the game, including two critical misses in the final minute.

“We never really got a chance to take over the game,” Thomas said.

Duke also failed to take over the game with its typically disciplined pressure defense. The Eagles handled Duke’s full-court pressure with aplomb, having prepared for the defense in practice and previous games.

“The past two games that we’ve played—Miami and Clemson—actually really prepared me for this game,” Boston College point guard Jaclyn Thoman said. “Clemson pressed us the entire game.”

To compound Duke’s woes, the Blue Devils were handily beaten on the boards against one of the ACC’s poorer rebounding teams. Boston College pulled down 19 total offensive rebounds, and scored nearly a third of its points on second-chance opportunities.

The determined Eagle rebounders kept Duke off the offensive glass as well, limiting the Blue Devils to just 10 second-chance points. Coming into Chestnut Hill, Duke led the ACC in rebounding margin at plus-11.4 per game, but Boston College pulled down 42 boards to the Blue Devils’ 33.

Duke compensated for its early lack of consistency on offense by shooting a high percentage from beyond the arc. Though Duke failed to put points on the board until nearly five minutes into the half, Karima Christmas sparked a long-range barrage for the Blue Devils, as Duke set a season high with five first-half threes.

Duke showed little improvement in the second half. The Blue Devils were never able to establish their offensive sets, and though Duke remained within striking distance until the end, its inability to stop Boston College’s guards proved to be the dagger. The final blow for Duke came with four minutes remaining in the game, when Boston College recovered two consecutive offensive rebounds and was able to keep the clock running continuously. After the second rebound, the Blue Devils fouled center Carolyn Swords, who drained the free throws to put the Eagles up by four.

The Blue Devils were well-rested entering the game, with this contest being just their second in the last 11 days, but head coach Joanne P. McCallie emphasized that the layoff was not a factor in Duke’s poor play.

“You’ve got to be ready to go,” McCallie said. “If you’re going to be a very good team, or a special team, we’ve got a long way to go to learn lessons on the way we need to be. There’s no excuses for us.” 

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