Duke proved it can compete with the best in the country Monday night, but will have to settle for another close loss after fading down the stretch.
No. 3 Notre Dame rallied from a five-point fourth-quarter deficit and outlasted the Blue Devils for a 68-61 win at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Guards Madison Cable and Arike Ogunbowale torched Duke from the outside for 34 combined points and the Blue Devils’ offense did not score for more than six minutes in the fourth quarter as the Fighting Irish seized control.
“They finished better in the fourth quarter for sure. It was a matter of shot selection, a matter of covering back in transition, just a matter of things of that nature—nothing huge,” Duke head coach Joanne P. McCallie said. “These games are at the margins and you have to win the margin battle, and we didn’t.”
Duke (16-6, 5-4 in the ACC) took its biggest lead early in the fourth quarter when redshirt sophomore Rebecca Greenwell made back-to-back shots in the paint to stake the Blue Devils to a 55-50 lead with 7:05 remaining, but Notre Dame (21-1, 9-0) answered with 13 straight points, taking the lead on a 3-pointer by Cable.
Sophomore Brianna Turner blocked a 3-point attempt by Greenwell on the ensuing possession and raced down the floor for an easy transition layup to make it a two-possession game. Cable then stole a lackadaisical pass from freshman point guard Kyra Lambert and took the ball down the floor for a breakaway layup—two of Notre Dame's 15 transition points—out of a timeout to extend the Fighting Irish lead.
“[Cable] won the game for them. Look at her. She’s a fifth-year senior and she played like one, and without her on the floor, the outcome would have been much different,” McCallie said. “Having the five steals that she had, the  points that she had, and the [seven] rebounds that she had, and the lack of any turnovers—it’s that kind of thing that makes a difference. Somebody’s got to be pretty spectacular, and for them, she was.”
Lambert scored Duke's final six points, but Notre Dame made enough free throws to close out the game.
The Blue Devils seized the momentum early in the third quarter, flummoxing the Fighting Irish with an aggressive 3-2 zone and holding them to two points in the first four minutes of the third period as they opened the half on a 12-2 run. When graduate student Amber Henson nailed a triple from the wing to trim the deficit to one point, Duke was closer than it had been since the early stages of the game.
A timeout by Notre Dame head coach Muffett McGraw could not stop the bleeding, and the Blue Devils took the lead when Greenwell fought through a foul to convert a layup and send the home crowd into a frenzy.
Greenwell crashed into the scorer’s table diving for a loose ball soon after and had to miss a possession while Notre Dame re-took the lead on a put-back by Cable. The Owensboro, Ky., native checked back into the game right away, playing with a visible bruise on her right shoulder.
“I didn’t really feel anything at the time, so it didn’t affect my play afterwards, but now it hurts really bad,” Greenwell said. “It was just a tough game all around. The rebounds—you had to fight for them, you had to fight for loose balls, but it was a fun atmosphere to play in.”
Greenwell turned in a gritty performance to stay on the floor for the rest of the game and led Duke with 16 points and nine rebounds, but missed two free throws with a minute remaining that would have put some pressure on the Fighting Irish.
The game went back and forth in the opening minutes with three early lead changes, but 3-pointers by Cable on back-to-back possessions gave Notre Dame an 8-4 advantage midway through the first quarter. Ogunbowale came off the bench late in the frame and made three straight shots to extend the Fighting Irish's cushion to eight.
Notre Dame built its early lead from the outside, but maintained it in the paint. Turner pulled down 11 rebounds in the first half and denied any Duke attempts to venture into the paint with her 6-foot-3 presence on defense.
The Fighting Irish outscored the Blue Devils 14-8 in the paint in the first half, and Stevens struggled against Turner’s physicality. The 6-foot-6 forward finished with 14 points, but had just one basket after halftime. Stevens kept Turner off-balance by moving to the perimeter, where she knocked down two 3-pointers to continue a recent hot stretch, and now has 10 triples in her last five games.
“She’s a great player. I definitely tried to stay in front of her and deny her at all times,” Turner said. “When they started their offense, just don’t let her catch it at all.”
Duke continues a busy week Thursday at home against Virginia.
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