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Second-half comeback comes up just short for Duke women's basketball at No. 23 N.C. State

<p>Sophomore Kyra Lambert and the Blue Devils missed several chances in the second quarter to cut into an early deficit.&nbsp;</p>

Sophomore Kyra Lambert and the Blue Devils missed several chances in the second quarter to cut into an early deficit. 

RALEIGH—Just three days after downing rival North Carolina at home to preserve its unblemished home record this season, Duke’s road demons returned to haunt them in a heartbreaking loss at fellow rival N.C. State.

The No. 12 Blue Devils fell to the No. 23 Wolfpack 55-52 in front of a packed house at Reynolds Coliseum in a top-25 barnburner that saw both one of Duke’s worst offensive performances of the season in the first half and also an impressive comeback in the second. The Blue Devils overcame a 14-point halftime deficit, but N.C. State's Chelsea Nelson hit a layup with 2:10 left in the game to give her team a one-point lead that the Wolfpack preserved with several defensive stops.

Duke has now lost back-to-back ACC road games to fall one game back in the conference standings early in league play.

“Playing 40 minutes is the name of the game, and we didn’t quite do that,” Duke head coach Joanne P. McCallie said. “We played a great 20 minutes of basketball, being down 14 at half, showing what we’re capable of doing, [but] we’re very disappointed we didn’t finish our work.”

After another forgettable first half on the road, the Blue Devils (15-3, 3-2 in the ACC) used a strong third quarter to cut into N.C. State’s lead, and retook the lead on a Lexie Brown 3-pointer with about eight minutes left in the game—their first lead since the first quarter.

The triple brought the contingent of Duke fans back to life as the game became a back-and-forth affair, with the two teams trading baskets down to the wire. Brown and senior Oderah Chidom came alive to lead the Blue Devils in the fourth quarter, combining for 15 points in the second half after recording just two in the first half.

Duke had several chances late in the game to tie or take the lead after Nelson's layup, but Brown missed a 3-pointer from the top of the key with five seconds left. After the Blue Devils fouled to get one final chance, Rebecca Greenwell stepped out of bounds to end their comeback hopes.

“They were denying us on the wings. I thought Lexie took a good shot,” Greenwell said. “She can hit that any day in practice. It just didn’t go in at that time. I thought it was a good take.”

Greenwell led Duke with 11 points, but a slow start ultimately proved too much for the Blue Devils to overcome.

The Wolfpack (14-5, 3-2) jumped out to an early 24-15 advantage in the first quarter on the strength of Dominique Wilson and Ashley Williams’ hot start from behind the arc. The duo was 4-of-6 from deep and scored 14 points between them in the opening period, repeatedly finding open looks against Duke’s zone defense.

On the offensive end, Duke struggled early to get shots to fall, and coughed up four turnovers that led to seven points for the Wolfpack.

The Blue Devils' offensive woes as a team continued in the second quarter as they went ice cold from the field and looked completely out of rhythm on the offensive end, shooting just 15.4 percent from the field and scoring just six points for their lowest single-quarter output of the season. Duke had just one fewer turnover than it did baskets in the first half, resulting in a 35-21 halftime deficit.

“The players just knew that was not Duke basketball. That’s not what we do. It’s not anything like what we do. I think the players figured that out,” McCallie said. “The problem is we can’t wait until halftime to figure that out.”

But the Blue Devils got back in the game with an 8-0 run early in the second half sparked by their full-court press and strength inside. 

Duke's matchup zone also slowed down N.C. State late in the game, giving the Blue Devils more offensive chances that they could not convert.

“We really just tried to be more aggressive. We tried to take it personal after they hit so many threes in the first half,” Greenwell said. “I thought we were really aggressive in our presses. Our front guards did a great job disrupting, and I thought everyone did a great job denying the wings and trying to shut down their go-to players.”

However, Nelson’s clutch play toward the end of the game, as well as timely offensive rebounding by the Wolfpack, kept the Blue Devils at bay with the game on the line.

“This one will sting,” McCallie said. “This will sting for a while, and we’ll use it to get better.”

Duke will return to action Thursday at home against Virginia Tech.


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