The independent news organization of Duke University

After win against No. 8 Louisville, future promising for Duke women's basketball

Senior Elizabeth Williams had three blocks during Duke's crucial run, and overcame a slow start to finish a rebound shy of a double-double.
Senior Elizabeth Williams had three blocks during Duke's crucial run, and overcame a slow start to finish a rebound shy of a double-double.

Things were not looking good for the Blue Devils.

Duke lost four games prior to January for the first time since the 1998-99 campaign. The new year brought even more disappointment for the Blue Devils, who lost to both now-No. 9 Florida State and unranked Boston College—the Eagles' only win in ACC play. The loss continued a five-game losing streak on the road for Duke—its longest in two decades.

Since that loss against the Eagles, the Blue Devils have been on a three-game winning streak, upsetting both then-No. 12 North Carolina and No. 8 Louisville. It looks like things might be turning around.

“I just think about our team getting better,” Duke head coach Joanne P. McCallie said. “I know we’re a very good team, and I know we can be a much better team. I think the team feels the same way, so we’re just going to try to see what we can do with it.”

Duke’s redemption campaign began just down Tobacco Road against the Tar Heels Jan. 25. Senior Elizabeth Williams scored a career-high 33 points in the come-from-behind victory—the most points ever by a Blue Devil against North Carolina. Duke overcame a 10-point halftime deficit to defeat the Tar Heels in overtime. A hard-fought rivalry win was just the spark the team needed to move past its brutal losses.

The Blue Devils then headed home to begin a two-game homestand against Pittsburgh. Duke’s stifling defense held the Panthers to just 29 percent shooting from the floor, and though it was not an exciting overtime win, the Blue Devils still emerged with a solid win and stayed alive in the race for the ACC regular-season crown.

“Defensively for the most part we’ve improved in each game,” Williams said. “We’ve stayed active and I think we’re starting to understand how to use our length on the defensive end.”

The second game of Duke’s two-game homestand was its first against Louisville since it joined the ACC. Playing their seventh game against a top-15 opponent this season, the Blue Devils rose to the occasion and led the Cardinals for all but 40 seconds of the contest—the first 40, when the score was tied 0-0.

Like the game against Pittsburgh, the scoring was distributed fairly evenly among Duke’s players, displaying consistency the team has been lacking for much of the year. Monday’s win marked the Blue Devils’ second victory against a top-10 opponent.

“I was proud of our team for how we battled. It was really a defensive battle for most of that game,” McCallie said. “I love our balance. Everybody got involved, and we got aggressive, which is fantastic. I thought we got a little bit better tonight.”

Looking forward, Duke will travel to Winston-Salem, N.C., Thursday to take on Wake Forest. The Blue Devils claimed the first meeting earlier in the year, defeating the Demon Deacons 70-63 Jan. 4. Duke will then return home to host Clemson Sunday afternoon. The Tigers are currently 1-8 in conference play, last in the ACC standings.

Momentum certainly seems to be on the side of the Blue Devils at the moment. Although the underlying issues that have plagued the team all season—namely turnovers and foul trouble—have not vanished, it appears the team has learned to win despite these mistakes. The Blue Devils are also healthy for the first time in awhile, as senior Amber Henson returned to play against Louisville Monday night. Duke is beginning to look like a team capable of living up to its expectations.

“Everybody’s beginning to understand what they can do,” McCallie said. “More importantly, I think they are beginning to understand what their teammates can do in terms of passing and finding teammates in the right spot. That’s the whole point of it. It’s a team, and you have to bring the best out in everybody. We’re taking great steps in that direction.”


Share and discuss “After win against No. 8 Louisville, future promising for Duke women's basketball” on social media.