CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va.—Lexie Brown and Rebecca Greenwell entered Sunday as the second-highest scoring tandem in the ACC, but their sharpshooting has rarely coincided this season.
Greenwell shouldered the load as Brown struggled to start the season, and Brown held up when Greenwell was mired in a shooting slump to start conference play, shooting just 33.3 percent from the field before an 8-of-13 outing against Clemson Thursday.
But it all came together for the duo Sunday afternoon at Virginia, which ranked No. 8 in the nation in scoring defense entering the contest. Greenwell and Brown combined for 38 points on 14-of-21 shooting in a 70-51 rout at John Paul Jones Arena.
“What I saw was great players and great play, very wise decisions. I saw great balance,” Duke head coach Joanne P. McCallie said. “Lexie was totally balanced. When she’s got that look in her eye, that sort of balance, you know it’s going to be an excellent shot. Becca was balanced — I didn’t think she was rushing. They let the game come to them. There wasn’t anything forced. They worked it, found each other inside out, and that’s the way to play.”
In shooting 7-of-11 combined from beyond the arc, Brown and Greenwell combined for 21 points from beyond the arc for the second time in seven days, helping lead a 23-3 first quarter run that vaulted the No. 15 Blue Devils past the Cavaliers and gave Duke its 20th consecutive 20-win season.
The Virginia defense, tops in the ACC in 3-point field goal defense entering Sunday, looked poised to lock down the Blue Devils’ outside shooting duo in the early going, taking an early 8-0 lead. Faced with the Cavaliers’ triangle-and-two defense, designed to key on an opponent’s top two scorers, Duke’s offense was flat-footed and disjointed, turning the ball over once and missing its first four shots.
But sophomore guard Kyra Lambert took advantage of Virginia’s extra attention on Greenwell and Brown, scoring seven consecutive points, including a deep 3-pointer and a transition layup to bring energy back to Duke’s offense. Lambert finished the day with nine points and five assists for Duke (20-4, 8-3 in the ACC), facilitating McCallie’s offense both beyond the arc and in the paint.
Duke’s defense also settled down, working to cut off the passing angles that Virginia was able to exploit in the early going for wide-open perimeter shots. The Cavaliers scored more in the game’s first 2:41 than they did in the entire third quarter, when the Blue Devils held them to six total points and put the game away.
“Basketball is a game of runs. Lately, teams would go on their runs and we wouldn’t respond. We were ready to punch back,” Brown said. “We really got on each other in the huddle and said, 'We’re good, it’s going to be okay, it’s only eight points.' We turned it around really fast.”
After the Blue Devils tied the game at 11 apiece, Brown and Greenwell got hot from long range, nailing four consecutive 3-pointers to put the Blue Devils firmly in control. Although the Cavaliers (15-8, 4-6) fought hard in the second quarter to stay within eight entering the second half, Greenwell started the second half on a personal 8-0 run as her team pulled away.
Following a 21-point performance against Clemson Thursday, Sunday’s effort marked the first time this season that Greenwell has scored 20 points in consecutive games.
“She plays both sides of the ball, certainly she can score. But the points off turnovers and the creation on defense is very important too,” McCallie said. “Our guards can do a lot of really neat things. I would not put any limits on them. They’re both a triple-double waiting to happen….I’m not surprised, but very impressed with [Greenwell’s] overall game.”
Duke outscored the home team 23-6 in the third period, sparked again by its active matchup zone defense that forced 17 turnovers and fueled a third straight Blue Devil rout. With its guards frequently deflecting passes and getting steals, Duke enjoyed 26 points off turnovers, including several in transition, and got its reserves plenty of minutes.
The Blue Devils will look to extend their winning streak against No. 24 Syracuse at home Friday evening. Duke is currently tied with the Orange and two other teams with three losses in conference play, with the four teams jostling for the No. 3 and No. 4 seeds in the ACC tournament.
Against Syracuse’s high-flying offense, ranked second in the ACC in scoring, Duke will look to preserve its unbeaten record at home and continue its recent dominance on defense. Four of the Blue Devils’ last five opponents have not even come close to sniffing the 60-point mark, even after Sunday’s slow start.
“We’ve got some great leadership with Lexie and Becca,” McCallie said. “They weren’t concerned about that—they were concerned about themselves and making sure we were making better choices or better positioning on defense.”
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Managing Editor 2018-19, 2019-2020 Features & Investigations Editor
A member of the class of 2020 hailing from San Mateo, Calif., Ben is The Chronicle's Towerview Editor and Investigations Editor. Outside of the Chronicle, he is a public policy major working towards a journalism certificate, has interned at the Tampa Bay Times and NBC News and frequents Pitchforks.