On a night when the Blue Devils were without their best forward, a tandem of guards stepped in to assure Duke the victory.
The Blue Devils put together one of their best defensive performances of the season Thursday, holding Virginia to just 34 percent shooting from the floor in a 67-52 win at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Redshirt sophomore Rebecca Greenwell and freshman Angela Salvadores paced Duke on the offensive end, combining for 42 points on a night when Azurá Stevens—the team's leading scorer and rebounder—was sidelined with a foot injury.
"I was very proud of our defense down the stretch, our fourth-quarter defense in particular," Duke head coach Joanne P. McCallie said. "[Greenwell] had a terrifically aggressive game, really worked hard out there and took her openings and took advantage which was fantastic….And I thought that Angela got into stride and did some wonderful things for us, especially at the end of the [first] half."
The Cavaliers (13-9, 3-5 in the ACC) found their rhythm first, sinking five of their first seven shots and running out to a 12-5 lead. However, a quick timeout by McCallie brought new life into her squad, and the Blue Devils (16-7, 5-4) responded with a resounding 15-0 run to end the first quarter.
Key to Duke’s run was its ability to get defensive stops—and the Blue Devils got them just about any way they could. They caused turnovers, forced shot-clock violations and limited the Cavaliers to low-percentage shots that harmlessly clanged off the iron.
For a stretch of seven minutes that spanned both the first and second quarters, Virginia labored tirelessly without making a field goal. Duke, on the other hand, was just warming up. Greenwell—who made 10 of her 14 shots from the field, including 5-of-7 from beyond the arc—paced the home squad’s offense with 15 first-half points, and Salvadores backed her up with 13 more.
“[The chemistry between the guards] has been great,” Greenwell said. “I’m really confident playing with Angela. She makes some amazing passes—you just really have to be ready for it.”
Even more critical, perhaps, was the duo’s 10 combined first-half rebounds. With Stevens on the bench, Duke began Thursday’s game without its most aggressive rebounder. The Blue Devil guards were not the only players to rise to the occasion and fill the void left by Stevens, though.
Sophomore Erin Mathias—who started in place of Stevens—made an important impact on the glass, and the trio of Oderah Chidom, Amber Henson and Crystal Primm combined for 18 rebounds. As a result, the Blue Devils doubled up Virginia on the boards, outrebounding the Cavaliers 44-22.
"I talked to Angela a little bit before the game, and told her that we had to fill some shoes with Azurá out,” Greenwell said." And I told her to look for her openings and she did a great job with that, doing different things, assists, scoring, but I think it was the team effort."
In the second half, Virginia returned hungry and aggressive, but the Blue Devils ultimately outlasted them, buoyed by their 17-point lead carried over from the first half.
The Cavaliers were led by sophomore guard Mikayla Venson, who finished the contest with 22 points and four assists. Venson and the Virginia offense were able to pick apart Duke’s man-to-man defense infrequently, but the Blue Devils repulsed any form of sustained attack and avoided giving the momentum away. However, Duke’s ability to take pressure off its defense with consistent point production helped them outlast the Cavalier’s comeback attempt.
Get Overtime, all Duke athletics
Signup for our editorially curated, weekly newsletter. Cancel at any time.
Despite their success in scoring, the Blue Devils were hampered by 25 turnovers against Virginia. Miscues in ball-handling translated to unproductive possessions for Duke and kept the Cavaliers in the game, with 13 points off turnovers.
Giveaways have been a persistent problem for McCallie's squad all season—the team averages nearly 20 turnovers per game and against Virginia, lost balls played a role in allowing the Cavaliers to crawl back into contention, and forced the Blue Devils to put them away a second time.
"We are rushing too much,” Greenwell said. "In transition, I think we get frazzled whever we should just play poised, play what the defense gives us. We need to slow down and stop rushing."
Duke continues its ACC schedule Sunday, when it travels to Miami for a 1 p.m. clash with the Hurricanes.