After its first conference loss of the season, Duke knew it needed to dominate in its next showing.
And that is exactly what it did.
The Blue Devils prevailed 65-40 in Thursday night’s contest at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Duke took the lead midway through the first half and secured it by holding Virginia Tech scoreless for a nine-minute stretch and scored 14 points in the process. By the half, the Blue Devils already led the Hokies by 13, and they continued to extend the lead from there. Redshirt freshman Rebecca Greenwell led the team with 21 points. Freshman Azura Stevens pitched in seven points and 13 rebounds.
“It was a good focused game by our team in terms of execution and in terms of getting back in the rebounding situation—in the second half in particular,” head coach Joanne P. McCallie said. “We played strong, aggressive and business like.”
Duke’s loss to Florida State Sunday showcased many of the issues that have plagued it throughout the season thus far—namely turnovers and finishing down the stretch. But Thursday night proved to be an entirely different experience for the Blue Devils (12-5, 3-1 in the ACC), who committed a mere 14 turnovers on the evening compared to 25 turnovers against the Seminoles.
Another issue Duke was able to improve upon against Virginia Tech was holding on to its lead. The Blue Devils gave up a 14-point lead against Florida State, a trend that has afflicted the team since very early on in the season. Monday, however, Duke maintained a lead starting midway through the first half. Even after sophomore Oderah Chidom went down early in the second half with what looked to be a severe shoulder injury, the Blue Devils preserved their level of play and Greenwell went for eight-straight points.
“Twenty-five turnovers the past two games is way too much,” Greenwell said. “We really just tried to value the ball a lot more. We tried to be patient and not rush, and I think it showed.”
A seemingly new issue arose for Duke in Sunday’s game against Florida State—rebounding. The Blue Devils posted a meager eight offensive and 20 defensive rebounds in the entirety of the contest. In fact, Duke only had three more total rebounds than it had turnovers in the game.
Against Virginia Tech, however, the Blue Devils were able to improve upon these statistics—they had 10 offensive and 31 defensive rebounds on the evening. Stevens’ aggressive performance in the post greatly contributed to this improvement.
“We made some progress [on the glass],” McCallie said. “You look at Azura [Stevens’] 13 [rebounds]—that’s progress. It’s just something we have to keep growing and focus. At one point, we were number one in the nation in rebounding… What we really care about is being number one in the nation in rebounding at the end of the year. It’s a long process—it’s a marathon. I think we’ve slipped up on that, but it’s a nice challenge for us.”
Greenwell’s performance, however, was arguably her most aggressive on the season. Coming off of being named ACC Freshman of the Week, Greenwell scored 20 points or more for her fifth contest on the season. She also matched her career high in 3-pointers with four on the night.
The Owensboro, Ky., native also played incredibly well on the other end of the court, as her defense resulted in a block and a steal. She also forced numerous turnovers when Duke employed a full-court press.
“[Greenwell] was really aggressive,” McCallie said. “They had to try to deny her the ball, which is always good because that provides opportunities for her teammates and can mess up the defense rotation of their team.”
A huge facet to the Blue Devils’ game strategy was their domination in the post. The Hokies were forced to focus their offense to activity beyond the arc, which proved to be incredibly unreliable. Virginia Tech scored on nine of 33 3-point attempts for a meager 27 percent in long range shooting.
Get The Chronicle straight to your inbox
Signup for our weekly newsletter. Cancel at any time.