In their first NCAA tournament game since 2015, the Blue Devils shredded an overmatched opponent missing four starters as expected.
But a second-quarter injury scare will likely still leave Duke needing to make adjustments before Monday's Round of 32 contest.
The second-seeded Blue Devils used a 31-2 second quarter to blow No. 15 seed Hampton out of the water 94-31 Saturday night at Cameron Indoor Stadium in their NCAA tournament opener. After a sluggish start, Duke ripped off a 26-0 run to end the first half and effectively end the game early. Redshirt junior Rebecca Greenwell was the catalyst for Duke offensively, scoring 26 points and grabbing 10 rebounds to lead the way in the romp.
“My teammates did a really good job finding the openings when they were pressing,” Greenwell said. “Lexie [Brown] was great with nine assists—we all did a really good job taking advantage of the openings.”
However, the Blue Devils got bad news in the second quarter when sophomore point guard Kyra Lambert went down with an ugly-looking knee injury when a Lady Pirate player landed on the back of her leg. Lambert did not return to the contest, joining her teammates on the bench on crutches for the second half with what looked like a ligament injury.
Although Duke will conduct an MRI to determine the extent of the injury, the Blue Devils will almost certainly not have their fourth leading scorer and one of their main ball handlers for Monday’s matchup with 10th-seeded Oregon at 6:30 p.m.
“Kyra is out for a long time,” Duke head coach Joanne P. McCallie said. “I really really feel bad for Kyra, it was very random. She got hit in a trap.”
That was about the only thing that went wrong for Duke (28-5) early on, though. After Hampton (20-13) hung around early on with activity on both ends to keep the score at 9-6, the Blue Devils used their laughable size advantage and strong play from Greenwell to close the first half on a 39-4 run and secure a huge 50-14 edge in points in the paint.
Freshman forward Leaonna Odom backed up Greenwell's 15-point first-half effort with 13 of her own, and Duke's matchup zone had the Lady Pirates flummoxed all night long. Odom finished with 23 points and six rebounds, using her size and speed advantage to post up smaller defenders.
“[Odom] was very efficient with her game,” McCallie said. “[She’s] learning to play several positions as well.”
Playing without four of its best players, including two-time MEAC player of the year Malia Tate-DeFreitas, Hampton shot just 18.2 percent and committed 21 turnovers, leading to a 16-5 advantage in fast break points for the Blue Devils.
Even though Duke’s leading scorer in Brown did not have a banner scoring day, she finished with nine assists to go along with her 11 points and ran the offense efficiently after Lambert's exit. Luckily for Duke, even if Lambert is not able to play Monday, Brown is a capable floor general as one of the top guards in the nation.
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“I’ll have to take more of the point guard responsibilities,” Brown said. “We’re most successful when I’m running the point and Becca is on the wing. We want to stick to what we’ve been doing all season long and this gives us a little extra motivation, playing for your teammate that’s down.”
The Blue Devils’ depth will be tested with Lambert’s injury, as sophomore guards Crystal Primm and Faith Suggs will be counted on to step up. Suggs, who averaged less than six minutes during the regular season, played 15 on Saturday night and Primm will likely take Lambert’s spot in the starting lineup.
Duke will face a step up in competition Monday against the Ducks, who used a last-second shot to upend No. 7 seed Temple in Saturday evening's first game. The Blue Devils still have a few areas to clean up after its first game in almost two weeks—McCallie's team still committed 19 turnovers in Saturday's contest.
“Oregon is a fantastic team,” McCallie said. “[They have] terrific young players, great inside game, inside presence, great outside game. They’re very balanced that way.”