SOUTH BEND, Ind.—Luck just does not seem to run out for the Fighting Irish.
No. 4 Notre Dame took down No. 10 Duke at Purcell Pavilion in South Bend, Ind., 63-50 Monday night, extending its winning streak against the Blue Devils to eight straight games. Despite an impressive 18 points, 11 rebounds, two steals and a block from senior Elizabeth Williams—her eighth double-double of the season—Duke just could not keep up with the offensively dominant Fighting Irish.
“We learned some things in this game,” head coach Joanne P. McCallie said. “I don’t think we played particularly well, but it was a good experience.”
The Blue Devils (19-7, 10-3 in the ACC) got out to a quick lead Monday night, outscoring Notre Dame 10-2 in the first three minutes of the game. The dominant post duo of freshman Azura Stevens and Williams each scored four points in Duke’s hot start. And a few minutes later the latter—a three-time All American—made history.
Williams, who is known for her tremendous shot blocking ability, hit a benchmark in the category in the contest against the Fighting Irish. She blocked the 400th shot of her career 6:15 into the first half. She needs just 35 blocks to break the ACC record currently held by former Blue Devil Alison Bales. Despite approaching this major feat, Williams is most concerned with the way the team closes out the season.
“I just think its really important for us to finish out conference play really strongly,” Williams said. “We need to continue to grow and learn and get better.”
After the block, however, momentum seemed to shift in favor of the Fighting Irish. Notre Dame (24-2, 11-1 in the ACC) went on a 12-5 run to bring the game within two points. A 3-pointer by Madison Cable at the buzzer gave the Fighting Irish their first lead of the game with 9:43 left in the half.
Notre Dame was on a roll from that point on. In the last seven minutes of the half, the Fighting Irish went on yet another 12-5 run. Duke began to struggle with fundamental issues that have plagued them throughout the season, committing eight turnovers and and six fouls in the closing 10 minutes of the half. Notre Dame finished the half with a total of six 3-pointers to lead the Blue Devils 34-24.
“Obviously the difference is 32,” McCallie said, referring to Notre Dame’s junior Jewell Loyd. “She’s a super guard. She’s grown her game and she made some big shots. Without her big shots the game could have gone the other way. She was the difference in the game.”
Duke came out to start the second half with much of the intensity it was missing in the end of the first. The Blue Devils scored six unanswered points in the first three minutes before the Fighting Irish scored a quick seven points in retaliation. McCallie was forced to take a timeout in an attempt to slow them down.
A failed attempt, that is. The remainder of the half was all Notre Dame, with an occasional spurt of Duke momentum intermixed. The Fighting Irish maintained a 10-point lead from 15 minutes left in the half onward. Redshirt freshman Rebecca Greenwell fouled out in the last minute of the game. She scored four points on the night—well below her 20.5 average points per game leading up to the contest. Duke finished the game 0-for-12 from beyond the arc.
“Horrible,” McCallie said. “You would think we would smarten up and get the ball inside. It was just terrible.”
This loss snaps a six-game winning streak for the Blue Devils and stunts their rise up the conference standings. Duke will finish out a four-game road trip with games at N.C. State and Georgia Tech before hosting North Carolina in a rivalry match-up to close out the regular season.
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