CHAPEL HILL—For the first 27 days of February, the Blue Devils had seemingly found every possible way to put their NCAA tournament hopes on life support. With five losses in the past seven games entering Sunday afternoon, Duke traveled down Tobacco Road to visit North Carolina, needing to make a statement.
Forty minutes later, the Blue Devils sent as loud a message as they have all season, keeping their postseason chances alive in dominant fashion.
Redshirt sophomore Rebecca Greenwell scored a career-high 27 points as Duke closed out the regular season with a wire-to-wire 93-57 win against the Tar Heels at Carmichael Arena. The Blue Devils outscored North Carolina 30-8 in the second quarter to open up a 31-point halftime lead, spoiling Senior Day for the Tar Heels and sweeping the home-and-home Tobacco Road series for the second straight year.
“Our team is trending [up] at a very good time,” Duke head coach Joanne P. McCallie said. “This team is doing everything right in terms of taking care of business [and they] made quite a statement today.”
The Blue Devils (19-11, 8-8 in the ACC) came out hot early, making 10 of their first 16 shots en route to a 23-14 lead at the end of the first quarter. Greenwell’s seven points in the game’s first 10 minutes set the tone for Duke, offering a sign of what was to come. The sharpshooter finished the day 10-of-17 from the field, including a 4-of-7 mark from downtown.
Back-to-back 3-pointers by freshman Kyra Lambert then sparked a 22-4 second-quarter run that put the game out of North Carolina’s reach before the two sides headed into the locker room at halftime. Duke finished with 53 first-half points—the most the Blue Devils have scored in any half this season, and more than or just as many as their 40-minute totals in four ACC losses this season.
“We’ve taken every game as a learning experience and we’ve learned from every game,” Lambert said. “We’re just trying to get better and work on what Duke basketball does.”
The second half brought more of the offensive onslaught that kept North Carolina (14-17, 4-12) in the same 20-plus point hole from the middle of the second quarter onward. With Greenwell and Lambert hitting 3-pointers on the perimeter, junior Oderah Chidom and Amber Henson went to work inside, combining for 28 points and 19 rebounds. Chidom’s 20 points set a new career-high.
“Oderah is just a fox out there, because she’s slightly built, but she uses her body exceptionally well in terms of positioning,” McCallie said. “She’s able to kind of roll off the defense to create offensive opportunities. She rebounded well. I love that the guards found her. We got the ball inside-out, we got the ball to her, giving her chances. She was very efficient [and] she had an excellent game.”
Duke outscored the Tar Heels 54-10 in the paint, crashing the offensive and defensive glass at will. The Blue Devils collected 17 offensive rebounds and won the battle on the boards, 51-33, excelling in an area that McCallie has stressed all season.
“Rebounding was definitely key, especially for this game,” Greenwell said. “We knew that that was going to determine the outcome of the game, so I think we really just took it to heart, and it showed. Everyone was really attacking the [offensive] boards and we wanted five people on the [defensive] boards every possession, and I think we just did a really good job of that.”
Greenwell grabbed 10 rebounds to go with her 27 points, highlighting a team effort on both ends of the floor. The Blue Devils finished with 25 assists and only 10 turnovers, and held the Tar Heels to just 28.8 percent shooting. Seven different Duke players registered a basket in the rout as the Blue Devils shot 52.1 percent from the field—their second-best mark in ACC play this season.
The 36-point margin was the largest Duke road win in the long history of the Tobacco Road rivalry, surpassing a 93-71 victory back on January 22, 1999.
“[Winning] is a good feeling for sure, but we just want to carry this feeling,” Greenwell said. “It’s a good preview of what we can do and we just want to carry this into the ACC tournament.”
Georgia Tech defeated Wake Forest in Atlanta Sunday, meaning the Blue Devils will receive the No. 8 seed in this week’s ACC tournament in Greensboro, N.C. Duke will begin postseason play against Virginia Thursday at 2 p.m.
“At this point, it doesn’t matter who you’re playing—it’s basically Opponent A,” McCallie said. “It doesn’t matter who you’re playing—what matters is how your team’s playing and how we’re playing. We’ve got to get some rest from this, get some practice in and head to Greensboro.”
The Blue Devils defeated the Cavaliers 67-52 in Durham Feb. 4 in their first game without sophomore Azurá Stevens. Although the 6-foot-6 forward dressed Sunday and went through warm-ups, she missed her seventh straight game with a torn plantar fascia in her left foot.
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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."