For most visitors to Cancún, Mexico, this Thanksgiving weekend, an 82-degree day full of sun would have meant another day on the beach. But for the Blue Devils, it was back to the hardwood for their second of three holiday matchups.
In a balanced team effort that saw 11 different players score, No. 15 Duke rolled past Iowa State 86-48 Friday afternoon at the Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya as part of the Cancún Challenge. Junior Oderah Chidom’s 12-point, 11-rebound effort led the charge on both ends of the floor as the Oakland, Calif., native picked up her first double-double of the season and fourth of her career. Redshirt sophomore Rebecca Greenwell and sophomore Azurá Stevens added 15 and 14 points, respectively.
"[I was most impressed by] the way we played as a team,” Duke head coach Joanne P. McCallie told GoDuke.com. “Those ladies out there were motivated in every sense of the word, on offense and on defense—21 team assists, outrebounding [Iowa State] significantly, limiting them to 48 points—and they are an outstanding scoring team—and playing 40 minutes of the best man-to-man defense I have seen in a long time.”
The lopsided affair opened sluggishly for both teams, as Duke (5-1) led 13-9 after one quarter of play despite committing seven turnovers. From that point on, the Blue Devils dominated, shooting an efficient 50 percent shooting from the field on the afternoon en route to a season-high 86 points.
Freshman Haley Gorecki keyed the second quarter run for Duke, draining a pair of 3-pointers—including one in the midst of a 15-4 run—that allowed the Blue Devils to pull away. Gorecki and Greenwell knocked down six of Duke's season-high seven 3-pointers, and the Blue Devil bench combined for 37 points. Iowa State's bench contributed just 11 points.
“We had to come down and control the ball,” junior forward Kendall Cooper told GoDuke.com. “We were throwing it away. Ten turnovers in the first quarter is completely unacceptable for a Duke team, but I think we just knew what we were doing [wrong] and we just took control of the game right then and there.”
Once Duke took control of the game midway through the third quarter, Iowa State (2-2) appeared poised to turn the momentum around. The Cyclones narrowed the Blue Devil lead to 15 points, but freshman Angela Salvadores closed the book on the period with a timely 3-pointer. The Leon, Spain, native finished with seven points, four rebounds and four assists.
The balanced offensive effort was impressive for a Duke team that has leaned heavily on Stevens in the early going, but the defensive silencing of the Cyclones was equally important. Facing off against a team that had been averaging 82.7 points per game, the Blue Devils ratcheted up the defensive pressure and held Iowa State to less than 30 percent shooting Friday.
“We had a goal to stop this team from scoring so many points and we achieved that goal, so that’s a big accomplishment,” Gorecki told GoDuke.com. “Our main focus was getting stops on [defense]. We had our goal and we got it and that’s what every team wishes for.”
The Cyclones struggled to contain a balanced Duke offense that tallied a season-high 21 assists and committed just 14 turnovers, something that has plagued them early and often this season.
“When you play as a team and you work the basketball and you really make them defend, it’s very hard to defeat that,” McCallie said. “I thought we just played very well together. There was terrific leadership on the floor with our guards… We’ve been looking for this.”
Saturday’s 1:30 p.m. game against Texas State will conclude the Blue Devils’ stay at the Hard Rock Hotel as they wrap up the Cancún Challenge before returning to Durham.
After returning to the United States, Duke will close out the semester with two more tests. The Blue Devils play Thursday against Minnesota at Cameron Indoor Stadium in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge before heading back out on the road to face No. 2 South Carolina Dec. 6.
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A junior from just outside Philadelphia, Mitchell is probably reminding you how the Eagles won the Super Bowl this year and that the Phillies are definitely on the rebound. Outside of The Chronicle, he majors in Economics, minors in Statistics and is working toward the PJMS certificate, in addition to playing trombone in the Duke University Marching Band. And if you're getting him a sandwich with beef and cheese outside the state of Pennsylvania, you best not call it a "Philly cheesesteak."