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Defensive tenacity helps Duke women's basketball pull away from Boston College

<p>Redshirt sophomore Rebecca Greenwell scored 23 points and made five 3-pointers to help the Blue Devils pull away from the Eagles in the second half Sunday.</p>

Redshirt sophomore Rebecca Greenwell scored 23 points and made five 3-pointers to help the Blue Devils pull away from the Eagles in the second half Sunday.

Duke desperately needed someone to step up alongside Azurá Stevens to halt a two-game losing streak. Behind a balanced team effort, Duke did just that.

Rebecca Greenwell knocked down five 3-pointers to complement Stevens’ 11th double-double of the season as the No. 22 Blue Devils pulled away from Boston College 71-51 Sunday at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Behind a spirited defensive effort that forced Boston College into 25 turnovers, the Blue Devils avoided a three-game losing streak and consecutive home defeats.

“It was a high-energy game, great defensive energy. I thought we were savvy defensively, and did some really good things offensively as well,” Duke head coach Joanne P. McCallie said. “We just have to keep working on things, keep getting better.” 

Greenwell rediscovered her scoring touch in the second half as she registered 18 of her game-high 23 points after intermission. The redshirt sophomore also made her presence felt defensively throughout the game, as she harassed Eagles’ backcourt players into making bad decisions. The Owensboro, Ky., native did not come out of the game in the second half as McCallie moved her to the top of both the half-court trap and full-court press with limited guard depth.

“I tried to be more patient,” Greenwell said. “I wasn’t getting a lot of shots that I wanted to in the first half and when I was, I wasn’t connecting. I just tried to slow down, come off of screens tighter and read the defense.”

With freshman guard Angela Salvadores and redshirt freshman forward Lynée Belton held out of the contest with ankle sprains, McCallie had just nine healthy players at her disposal. But from the start of the game it was evident that the Blue Devils were going to use their height to their advantage. Boston College starts just one player taller than 6-foot-3, so Duke countered with three starters standing at least 6-foot-4—Stevens, graduate student Amber Henson and sophomore Erin Mathias.

The lineup provided immediate results, as Stevens led the team with nine points heading into the first media timeout and finished with 17 points and 14 rebounds—seven of which were on the offensive glass.

Junior Oderah Chidom rebounded from a tough performance against N.C. State Thursday with eight points, six rebounds, two steals and a career-high four blocks. The Oakland, Calif., native found success in the low post, highlighted by a deft spin move around two Eagle defenders to make a contested layup. Complimenting her was Henson, who forced Boston College to guard her on the perimeter, and also delivered five steals. The duo utilized their frames to disrupt the sharpshooting guards in the first half, forcing Eagles’ guards into low-percentage shots away from the basket.

Boston College (12-5, 0-4 in the ACC) could not solve Duke’s half-court trap in the first half as the Blue Devils surprised the Eagles with double teams far away from the basket. The defensive pressure allowed Duke’s frontcourt to contest perimeter shots, resulting in seven blocks for the team. But after halftime, the Eagles went on a 14-5 run to open the half, forcing McCallie to call for her a full-court press.

The Eagle spurt to start the third quarter trimmed the lead to as little as one point, but Duke battled back behind Stevens and Greenwell, who led the charge defensively to push the Blue Devil lead back to nine. The pushback was highlighted by a 3-point play by Stevens after a missed Greenwell free throw.

Kelly Hughes, who came into the game leading Boston College at 13.4 points per game, finished with 23 points on 5-of-9 shooting from 3-point range. But the Blue Devils (13-6, 2-3) limited the rest of the Eagles’ supporting cast, as the rest of the team combined to shoot only 12-of-31 from the field.

Duke held Boston College to only three offensive rebounds and zero second chance points, which are both season-lows. The Blue Devils dominated in the rebounding category, outrebounding the Eagles 37-21 and snagging 15 offensive boards.

Duke heads back on the road—where it is 1-4 this season—Thursday night at Clemson.

“I think that the team is beginning to understand what it takes to prepare and to really get themselves in a good space in which to play. The team was very fun to coach today because there was activity everywhere,” McCallie said. “You love it if you have to turn down instead of turn up. If anything today, I was turning down things and that makes for a really good team performance.”

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