There was plenty at stake for the Blue Devils at Cameron Indoor Stadium Monday night—protecting an undefeated home record, adapting after losing sophomore guard Kyra Lambert to a torn ACL and earning a bid to the Sweet 16 were among the potential rewards for Duke.
But Lambert’s absence seemed to hang over the second-seeded Blue Devils from the opening tip, leading to a second Round of 32 upset at home in four years.
Tenth-seeded Oregon shredded Duke’s matchup zone defense on its way to a 74-65 upset victory at Cameron Indoor Stadium Monday night. The Ducks racked up 20 assists on 26 made buckets and got a 20-point, 15-rebound effort from freshman Ruthy Hebard inside to give their potent outside shooters plenty of room to fire away. Oregon led for almost the entire game, using a 7-0 spurt at the end of the third quarter to go up by 11 then keeping the Blue Devils from getting closer than eight until the final moments.
As the Ducks’ high-powered offense dictated tempo, Duke’s own normally efficient offense withered. Despite entering the game in the top six nationally in field goal percentage and 3-point percentage, the Blue Devils shot just 38.8 percent overall and 2-of-15 from long range, missing several layups and wide open looks that could have given the team a chance to secure a win late.
“The thing that changed is we had much fewer options on the outside in terms of outside shooting. Kyra was a huge part of that, being a threat on the outside,” Duke guard Lexie Brown said. “We just had to make things happen on offense and we had to make shots. We were getting any shot we wanted, but some of them were just not going down.”
Oregon had no such issues from long distance, with guards Maite Cazorla and Lexi Bando combining for eight 3-pointers and 11 assists to also take advantage of Duke’s lackadaisical perimeter defense with Lambert out.
Although Brown had 25 points and six assists, redshirt junior Rebecca Greenwell and freshman Leaonna Odom combined to shoot 5-of-18 to prevent the Blue Devil offense from taking flight. Duke’s second-leading scorer, Greenwell did not score until the fourth quarter and finished the contest with just six points against five turnovers.
With one of their two primary ball handlers and the head of their defense not available, the Blue Devils (28-6) looked shaky from the opening tip. Duke missed seven straight shots early in the game to let Oregon (22-13) get comfortable on the road, with the Ducks’ ball movement inside and out at the high post as well as along the baseline allowing Oregon to dissect the top scoring defense in the ACC.
The Blue Devils had gotten in the habit of holding teams to fewer than 70 points at home, with only one team reaching that threshold all season. On Monday, it was clear Duke would need to score more than that with the Ducks on track from the outset.
“Oregon is a great team and they hit a lot of tough shots,” senior Oderah Chidom said. “Our defense was there when we needed it to be, but they just kept hitting shots.”
Although Crystal Primm scored eight points in the first half in Lambert’s place and helped Duke capture a brief 20-19 lead in the second quarter, Oregon held Chidom and company without a point in the half’s final 3:42 to maintain a 31-26 lead going into the locker room.
With the Blue Devils unable to get Greenwell going, the Ducks continued surging anytime Duke got close, with Hebard, Cazorla and Bando all scoring in the final 1:33 of the third period to put their team up by 11.
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Back-to-back 3-pointers by Bando and Cazorla made it a 15-point game with eight minutes remaining, and a 7-0 response from the Blue Devils led by Brown and Chidom was not enough to get Duke within striking distance.
“We were unfortunately a second half team all year. And we continued to be a second half team in this game,” Blue Devil head coach Joanne P. McCallie said. “That’s not enough. These are all really good teams—you need to be a full 40-minute team. I would tell you we played about 20 minutes in this game.”
Although the Blue Devils had a season of redemption after missing the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1994 last year by finishing tied for second in the ACC regular-season standings and advancing to the conference tournament title game, another season ended on a sour note for McCallie’s team.
Duke has now failed to advance to the Sweet 16 for the third time in four years, and will lose senior post players Chidom and Kendall Cooper as it looks to regroup once again in the offseason.
As the Blue Devils left the court for the final time this season, they could only watch Oregon celebrate its first-ever Sweet 16 knowing that the tournament’s second weekend has now also become a rarity for Duke’s current players.
“We’re very grateful to Oderah and Kendall as seniors for their fight in the second half and really stepping up when we needed it,” McCallie said. “We had an opportunity that we didn’t take full advantage of, and that hurts.”