PHOENIX—For the fifth straight season, the Blue Devils opened the season on the road. And like the four previous times, Duke opened the fall with a win, though it did not come easily Sunday.
The 12th-ranked Blue Devils beat Grand Canyon 74-61 to start the regular season at Grand Canyon University Arena, led by graduate student Rebecca Greenwell’s 19 points. Greenwell was joined in double figures by graduate student Lexie Brown, sophomore Leaonna Odom, freshman Mikayla Boykin and senior Erin Mathias. It was the first time all five Duke starters scored at least 10 points since 2015.
“I love that balance, I love the fact that everyone found a way to attack at different times. Those five players can all score, and that balance, having all five or six in double figures would be very good for us,” McCallie said. “[I’m] wanting some off the bench as well, wanting to build our depth as much as possible, but just happy that those five could attack the way they could.”
The Antelopes surged out to an early 8-3 lead, but a Brown layup knotted the score at 10 apiece and the Blue Devils (1-0) did not look back. Greenwell took over the first quarter, scoring 12 points on 4-of-4 shooting from long range to give Duke a five-point advantage entering the second period.
“Becca plays with a great deal of confidence,” McCallie said. “That’s part of her game, so that’s not surprising to me at all. When she’s focused and balanced, there’s no better shooter.”
Although Duke did not relinquish the lead, it was tested by Grand Canyon. The Antelopes came out of the locker room strong in the second half and tightened the score. Unlike last season, when the Blue Devils won 90-47 at Cameron Indoor Stadium, Grand Canyon (0-2) kept the score respectable under first-year coach Nicole Powell.
“They came out with a lot of defensive intensity. And they also like to hold the ball a lot on the offensive end. We needed to be patient,” Greenwell said. “We could have had more ball pressure for sure to speed up the game. But that’s something we just had to adjust to, and they did really well with that.”
Brown was forced to take a seat on the bench with her second personal foul in the second quarter. But the graduate student’s all-around game helped lead head coach Joanne P. McCallie’s team to a win, and she finished with 13 points, six rebounds and six assists.
Greenwell surpassed 1,500 career points with a 3-pointer in the third quarter, becoming the 11th player in program history to reach that mark, and she finished the game perfect from the 3-point line, making all five tries.
“She has an incredible work ethic. Those numbers, those mean something to Becca for the rest of her life,” McCallie said. “We don’t really concentrate on them in season, but certainly at the end of the season, recognizing the impact she’s had. All of that comes later, and that’s part of a long list of things that Becca has done.”
Boykin opened the scoring for the Blue Devils with a 3-pointer and finished her much-anticipated debut with 12 points on 5-of-13 shooting. With the freshman playing 32 minutes after a brief injury scare in Duke’s exhibition last Sunday, the Blue Devils finished the game with 15 turnovers, seven fewer than against Alaska Anchorage.
With Duke’s overpowering size, the ACC’s tallest team ended with 39 rebounds to only 24 from the Antelopes. Odom finished with 13 points and seven rebounds, and Mathias nearly had a double-double, grabbing nine boards and scoring 12 points.
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“We were shooting a lot of outside shots in the beginning of the game and the middle of the floor was really open, so we just tried to take advantage of that and feed it to our bigs,” Greenwell said. “We obviously missed a lot of layups. We definitely need to work on that. But overall, it was a really good team win.”
Graduate student Bego Faz Davalos was the first player off the bench for McCallie’s squad to bolster the depth in the frontcourt. She finished with four points to go along with four rebounds. Redshirt sophomore Haley Gorecki scored one point, and the rest of the Blue Devil bench was held scoreless.
“Grand Canyon is a great team. They gave us a battle for sure,” McCallie said. “It was a closer game than we wanted it to be.... Every time you take the floor, you’ve got to be ready to compete at the highest level. I think we were kind of up and down with that and our bench did not provide enough support for us as well, so we have a lot to work on.”
The Blue Devils will return to Cameron for their home opener Nov. 16 at 7 p.m. against High Point.
“It’s good to get our nerves out, away from Cameron. When we get back home next Thursday, we’ve got the first-game jitters out of the way,” Greenwell said. “Now we can just go to work and really put on a show for our fans. I’m just really looking forward to getting in there on Thursday.”