CORAL GABLES, Fla.— For any team playing without its leading scorer, offensive struggles are a near-certainty. But without the ACC's third-leading scorer, struggle still might have been an understatement for the Duke offense.
The Blue Devils missed 25 straight shots in the final 15:01 of the first half and shot just 4-of-33 from the field before intermission, putting Duke in a hole that proved insurmountable in a 61-53 loss to No. 16 Miami Sunday at the BankUnited Center. The Blue Devils came alive to score 25 points in the third quarter after being stuck with just 11 in the first half—a dubious new team record—but went cold again early in the fourth quarter as the Hurricanes stretched their lead back to 16.
“I think we just did some disrupting ourselves [offensively], once we got to certain spaces,” Duke head coach Joanne P. McCallie said. “But you have to credit [Miami] for aggressive defense. Obviously, that’s going to make you go faster and it might make you off-balance, so it’s a combination [of things that gave us problems].”
With star sophomore Azurá Stevens sidelined for a second straight game by a plantar fascia injury in her left foot, junior Oderah Chidom paced the Blue Devils with a career-high 18 points, despite foul trouble that kept the 6-foot-4 forward on the bench for much of the afternoon.
Duke (17-8, 6-5 in the ACC) trailed by just six after the first quarter, but the margin was mostly a result of sloppy ball movement from the hosts. Miami (20-4, 8-3) committed 12 first-half turnovers, thanks to aggressive defense by the Blue Devils.
The Hurricanes, though, used their own full-court press to smother the Duke offense in the second quarter. After freshman Crystal Primm's lay-up with 5:01 left in the first quarter, the Blue Devils did not score again until Primm made 1-of-2 from the free-throw line with 3:24 left before halftime.
During that time, Miami used a 12-2 run to open up a double-digit lead, and the Blue Devils' shooting woes kept them from cutting into that margin before halftime.
“It was really frustrating,” Chidom said. “Our primary goal in practice was to take balanced shots and we didn’t execute that well tonight. I think we need to really buckle down and take the best shot on offense instead of rushing shots and taking quick shots.”
Duke went to the locker room trailing 27-11—with just two points in the second quarter—but McCallie's halftime speech appeared to light a fire under her team.
The Blue Devils drained their first four shots from the field and 10 of their first 14 attempts in the third quarter, cutting the deficit in half by the end of the third quarter. Chidom was a perfect 4-for-4 in the frame, and redshirt sophomore Rebecca Greenwell knocked down the team's first 3-pointer of the afternoon.
“I don’t mind if anyone misses—you can miss once, twice, three times, just get the ball back and hustle to put it in,” McCallie said. “The second half was reflective of a team in balance and working very hard. Obviously, we did some very good things in the second half—we cut their lead several times, we had to fight back several times—all of that’s to the positive, without question.”
Greenwell started slow, but chipped in 15 of her 16 points in the second half and finished with a team-high seven rebounds. Primm added seven points in her return to South Florida.
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Miami's dynamic backcourt duo of juniors Adrienne Motley and Jessica Thomas was simply too hot for Duke to handle, combining to score 34 of the Hurricanes' 61 points. All four of Thomas' made field goals came from downtown.
“I was feeling it, but all credit to my teammates,” Thomas said. “They set me up in good positions. When I have wide-open shots because Adrienne Motley is drawing defenses and kicking it out to me…you just have got to knock them down.”
Sunday afternoon, the Hurricanes knocked down shots when they needed most, but neither side was particularly efficient from the field. The hosts shot only 35.8 percent from the field, but the Blue Devils shot a season-low 27.9 percent, including just 3-of-15 from beyond the arc.
After Duke clawed its way back in the third quarter, the Blue Devils missed their first five shots of the final period and Miami stretched its lead back to 16. In the waning minutes, Duke made one final surge to close to within seven, but ran out of time.
The Blue Devils return to action Thursday night—a four-day break after three games in seven days—when they host No. 10 Florida State in another opportunity to notch their first win of the year against a ranked team.
“I like our team,” McCallie said. “We can play with anybody in the country, I don’t care what the rankings are…we’ll be looking forward to another game that’s for sure, but definitely we’ll take our lessons from this one."