ATLANTA—Coming off three home wins against top-20 teams in the last month, Duke took another step in its reemergence Thursday, proving its ability to translate its recent success onto the road.
The No. 13 Blue Devils beat Georgia Tech 75-68 at McCamish Pavilion, led by junior Lexie Brown's 25 points. Oderah Chidom added 12 points on 5-of-7 shooting to help the Blue Devils extend their winning streak to 10 games, though they struggled with turnovers and foul trouble for much of the game.
After taking a narrow 35-34 lead into the halftime locker room, redshirt junior Rebecca Greenwell—who had a quiet first half with just three points—began the third quarter with several strong drives to the basket, two of which resulted in 3-point plays, as Duke scored nine straight points to take its first double-digit lead.
“Coming out in the second half I just wanted to be more aggressive offensively,” Greenwell said. “My teammates did a good job of setting me up and giving me some easy passes to get those and-ones.”
Greenwell finished the day with 17 points, joining Brown, Chidom and Kyra Lambert in double figures.
The Blue Devils (14-1, 2-0 in the ACC) entered the fourth quarter with a 53-47 lead and were able to immediately use their extended matchup zone to force three straight Yellow Jacket turnovers, resulting in three buckets in a row to seize control. Georgia Tech (11-4, 1-1) never pulled within five the rest of the way, though it had several late opportunities to shoot from the line and make the final margin more respectable.
Duke cleaned up its offensive play a bit as the game went on, with nine second-half turnovers after coughing the ball up 14 times in the first half.
The third quarter was especially sharp for the Blue Devils, as Duke had just two giveaways and added five blocks and five steals on the defensive end. The blocks continued into the fourth quarter to keep the Yellow Jacket offense at bay, and the Blue Devils swatted away nine Georgia Tech shots in total.
“We feel really good down the stretch in terms of getting fouled, executing on the foul line and making stops,” Duke head coach Joanne P. McCallie said. “I thought Kendall [Cooper] and Oderah had a great stop. [Zaire O'Neil] was really trying to drive to the basket and they blocked that shot, which was important.”
Although the Blue Devils started strong and made their first four shots on their way to a 13-5 lead, they began to struggle with turnovers as the Yellow Jackets moved into a press. Georgia Tech scored eight straight points to tie the score, led by Francesca Pan, who scored her team's first 12 points and led the Yellow Jackets with 23.
Brown quickly answered the early run with five consecutive points of her own off a right-handed layup and a 3-pointer. The Suwanee, Ga., native scored 13 points in the first quarter to carry the Blue Devil offense early on, and she finished with 25 points in the first game in her home state in three years.
“It was great to be here. A lot of people who live here haven’t seen me play since my freshman year of college or even my senior year of high school,” said Brown. “So to come here and see all those people in the stands—I really didn’t think that many people would be here, so to look up and hear them throughout the game was amazing.”
Georgia Tech also capitalized on the Blue Devils' early foul trouble, as the Yellow Jackets tacked on 10 points from the free-throw line by the end of the half. But Duke played more disciplined on defense in the second half, committing just five fouls after the break, and began to attack the basket more and get to the line.
After attempting seven free throws in the first half, the Blue Devils wound up totaling 21 attempts.
Duke will look to continue its winning streak against No. 6 Florida State in Tallahassee, Fla., Sunday afternoon at 3.
“[We need to] continue our tenacity, our offensive maturity and our basketball IQ. Lowering turnovers is also important for us,” McCallie said. “There’s a lot to learn from this game. We’ve just got to get some rest, look at some film and get ready to go.”
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