After shooting just 27.0 percent and going 4-of-31 from 3-point range in their last three games, Lexie Brown and Rebecca Greenwell returned home hoping to rediscover their early-season form.
With Brown setting the tone, the Blue Devils’ leading scorers did just that to finally get Duke’s offense in gear against an ACC foe.
The No. 15 Blue Devils dominated No. 17 Virginia Tech 84-59 at Cameron Indoor Stadium Thursday evening, using an 18-0 start to the third quarter to pull away in their cleanest conference game of the season. Brown scored 18 of her game-high 29 points to help Duke turn a five-point first-quarter deficit into a six-point halftime lead, and the Blue Devil matchup zone forced the high-octane Hokie offense into 17 turnovers that led to 23 Duke points.
After Brown got it going early in the contest, Greenwell also found a rhythm with the Blue Devils creating offense off their defense. The redshirt junior added 18 points as Duke convincingly bounced back from an ugly 55-52 loss at then-No. 23 N.C. State.
The Blue Devils’ 84 points were their most since Nov. 27.
“Players had great intensity on defense and complete disruption of them offensively and then we fed off of that. We made good choices, pushed the ball, controlled the tempo,” Duke head coach Joanne P. McCallie said. “The guards were really blocking their hand-offs and causing confusion for them. That confusion led to deflections, steals and turnovers and then of course some excellent play on our part in terms of moving the ball and finding shooters.”
Although the Blue Devils (16-3, 4-2 in the ACC) eventually pulled away, they got off to another slow start defensively. Duke allowed Virginia Tech (16-2, 3-2) to carve up its defense with penetration to the tune of 21 first-quarter points.
But with Brown—who made 10-of-16 shots and 3-of-4 from long range—rolling, the Blue Devils got back to the offensive execution that led to three-top-20 wins in December.
The Maryland transfer scored nine points in the opening quarter on 3-of-5 shooting and and added two early assists to carry the team’s offense before her teammates picked it up.
“The past couple games haven’t been my best games mentally or scoring, passing, sharing the ball, rebounding—all of those things have been a little absent in my opinion,” Brown said. “I had some really nice talks with my teammates and Coach P [on] how to get in the gym a little extra this past week but my teammates gave me all the confidence in the world in the first quarter and I just took that and went with it.”
The other Blue Devils got into the act in the second quarter, with Duke making six of its first eight shots to start the period and frontcourt players stepping up on both ends of the court to put the Blue Devils back in control. Duke posted a season-low three turnovers in the opening 20 minutes, then came out of the locker room with even more energy to put the game away.
The Blue Devils did not allow a point for the first five minutes of the second half to break the game open, finishing 7-of-12 from 3-point range and a perfect 17-of-17 from the free-throw line to improve to 11-0 at home.
After a slow start inside, senior Kendall Cooper and freshman Leaonna Odom combined for 16 points and 11 rebounds with senior Oderah Chidom relegated to the bench for the third straight game.
Even as Duke’s scoring pace slowed toward the end of the game, the Blue Devil defense did not let up to keep the margin near 25. Duke held Virginia Tech’s leading scorer Chanette Hicks—who was coming off a 29-point effort against Wake Forest and averages more than 17 points per contest—to four shot attempts and forced her into six turnovers.
“We had to make sure she didn’t get any layups. She had six turnovers and zero steals. Offensively, we were aware of her when she was in the vicinity,” McCallie said. “Our defensive positioning, led by Lexie and Kyra, was difficult to play against. She wasn’t always sure of what to do. When you can affect someone’s poise, that is a strong statement defensively and we were able to do that at times.”
The Blue Devils are back in action Sunday afternoon at Boston College, where they will look to improve on a 5-3 road record that has largely been defined by inconsistency. If Duke can find a way to take its home efficiency on the road, the Blue Devils could pose an even bigger threat in the ACC moving forward.
“We bring amazing intensity at home, just getting after it. We need to play that way anywhere we go—it shouldn’t matter where we are,” said sophomore guard Kyra Lambert, who added 10 points and six rebounds. “We plan to bring this on the road along with our defensive intensity.”
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