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Duke women’s basketball Player of the Week: NCAA tournament Week 1

Azura Stevens

Statline: Friday vs. Albany: 11 points on 5-of-10 shooting, nine rebounds, two assists and one steal in 30 minutes; Sunday vs. Mississippi State: 22 points on 9-of-13 shooting, 10 rebounds, two blocks, one assist and one steal in 40 minutes.

The good: Azura Stevens, selected to the All-ACC second team and the conference’s All-Freshman squad, had an standout performance in Duke’s win against Mississippi State 64-56 Sunday as the 6-foot-5 forward delivered a double-double playing all 40 minutes. The Raleigh, N.C., native, averaging 14.2 points per game, showed her versatility in Duke’s offense as she made one 3-pointer, three free-throws, and three layups. Also, with her 10 rebounds against Mississippi State, Stevens totaled 268 this season, setting a freshman record in the program.

Two days before, Stevens had a decent performance in Duke’s victory against Albany 54-52, as she registered 11 points. Stevens made a free throw with seven seconds to play after Rebecca Greenwell made the go-ahead three-pointer to help the Blue Devils escape the Great Danes.

The bad: The Blue Devils have struggled with turnovers throughout this campaign averaging 18.5 per contest, and the issues did not subside. Duke registered a season-worst 27 turnovers against Albany. The Great Danes made the best out of each extra possession as 33 of their 50 points came from Blue Devil miscues. Despite knowing that they had to take better care of the ball, the Blue Devils committed 14 turnovers in the opening 20 minutes against the Bulldogs. Fortunately, they were able to reduce their turnover rate in the second half, giving it away only three times.

Stevens was not exempt from this deficient side of Duke’s two games, as she totaled eight turnovers in the Blue Devils’ first two NCAA Tournament clashes—six against Albany and two against Mississippi State.

The bottom line: Stevens has scored in double figures in 13 consecutive games and is becoming a go-to player very early in her career. Even when the team doesn’t have a good day, like in its heart-breaking loss against Notre Dame for the ACC semifinals March 7, the freshman forward has put up solid numbers. Her impact on the game extends to both ends of the court, as she also averages 8.4 rebounds per contest. The Raleigh, N.C., native will likely need to deliver yet another strong performance March 28 against No. 1 seed Maryland, if the Blue Devils want to succeed in their Sweet 16 contest in Spokane, Wash.

Honorable mention: Redshirt freshman guard Rebecca Greenwell was an equally worthy candidate this week after draining the most important 3-pointer of her career—and her sixth of the game—Friday, turning the game around against Albany with just 14.9 seconds left. The crowd in Cameron Indoor Stadium and her teammates exploded with the Blue Devils' season in enormous jeopardy, and Greenwell finished with 22 points in her first NCAA tournament game. The Owensboro, Ky., native, averaging 14.3 points and 36 percent from behind the arc on the season, scored 17 points and added four assists, three rebounds and two steals against the Bulldogs in 38 minutes Sunday, complementing Stevens beautifully.

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