SYRACUSE, N.Y.—For Duke, Sunday was as ugly as it gets.
Redshirt senior Maggie Morrison scored a career-high 25 points in 16 minutes and the Blue Devils coughed up 32 turnovers as Syracuse trounced No. 12 Duke 86-50 at the Carrier Dome in the ACC opener for both teams. The Orange sprinted out to a 17-3 lead and never looked back, shooting 50 percent from the field and knocking down 14 3-pointers.
The ball security issues were widespread. All seven Blue Devils who played 16 minutes or more committed at least three turnovers, as a young Duke squad received a rude welcome to ACC play.
“Obviously, their defense was super,” Duke head coach Joanne P. McCallie said. “I didn’t think it would be that challenging…but we really didn’t listen very well—you can’t dribble into traps like we did.”
The 32 turnovers were the most for the Blue Devils since McCallie became head coach in 2007.
The Orange (11-3, 1-0 in the ACC) blew the door open in the first quarter. Leading 6-4 three minutes into the game , senior Brianna Butler knocked down a 3-pointer off a Duke turnover, hit another triple off another turnover 30 seconds later, and fed backcourt mate Alexis Peterson for yet another 3-pointer in a 1:05 span to give the Orange an 11-point lead.
Duke (11-4, 0-1) never recovered and could not get out of its own way. The Syracuse lead—30-16 after the first quarter—grew slowly in the second quarter but ballooned in the second half with McCallie's squad unable to pierce the relentless 2-2-1 Syracuse press.
The Blue Devils—who average 18.0 turnovers per game—committed 10 in the first quarter and had 17 by halftime, as Syracuse aggressively trapping any Duke player who dribbled into a corner. The result was 27 Orange points off of turnovers, and 24 Syracuse fast-break points.
When the Blue Devils were able to set up their matchup zone, Morrison and the rest of Syracuse's veteran guards shot over the top of it.
Morrison entered Sunday averaging just 5.2 points per game, ranking sixth on the Orange roster. But the Vanderbilt transfer exploded for four 3-pointers in the first half as Syracuse built a 48-32 lead at intermission. The onslaught continued in the second half, as Morrison drilled three more triples, finishing 7-of-12 from downtown to give her 21 made 3-pointers on the year.
“It was just out of body today,” Morrison said. “It was just one of those days where you get hot and you’re shooting and everything’s just going in. I might have shot one with my eyes closed—it was just one of those days.”
Peterson scored 17 points and served as the key distributor, dishing out 13 assists.
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Syracuse kept Duke from getting out in transition by protecting the basketball, the hallmark of a veteran team. The Orange committed just seven giveaways, forcing the Blue Devils to solve their halfcourt zone defense.
Whether it was the zone or the wide expanses of the backdrop at the Carrier Dome—which doubles as the home of the Syracuse football team—Duke could not find the range from downtown. Redshirt sophomore Rebecca Greenwell made her first look from beyond the arc but finished 2-of-6. The rest of the Blue Devils went 0-of-8.
Duke had more success inside, and managed to shoot 40 percent for the game. Sophomore Azurá Stevens led the Blue Devils with 12 points and also collected a team-high 12 rebounds. Junior forward Oderah Chidom was efficient as well, making 4-of-5 shots for 10 points.
Most of that damage came in the first half, though—20 of Duke's 32 first-half points came in the paint, and the Orange adjusted at halftime.
“The biggest adjustment we made was packing the paint,” said Syracuse head coach Quentin Hillsman, who earned his 200th win Sunday. “That’s all we talked about was taking away the touches and points in the paint. I thought in the second half, we did that, and that was the key to the game.”
Duke seemed flustered by the Orange defense from the very start, when the team needed more than five minutes to score four points. Playing its fourth game in six days, Syracuse slowed the Duke tempo, posting seven blocks to Duke’s one and 17 steals to the Blue Devils' four.
Switching baskets after halftime did nothing to cool off the Orange offense, and made communication more difficult for the Blue Devils.
“We were playing better defense when it was in front of the bench, and we were getting assists from the bench in communication,” McCallie said. “To defend, you have to have leadership on the floor, and people talking and pointing. We did not have that.”
The Blue Devils return to action Thursday against Wake Forest back at Cameron Indoor Stadium.