After a slow start caused by stagnant offense and little help from the frontcourt and bench, Duke came out of halftime with a purpose thanks to its best player and its bench, shutting down Presbyterian's hopes of keeping the game close.

The Blue Devils outscored the Blue Hose 43-17 in the second half to quickly break open an eight-point lead at the break. After only scoring six points in the first two quarters, graduate student Lexie Brown played significantly better in the second half, finishing with 18 points. Graduate student Rebecca Greenwell led the team in scoring and stayed consistent throughout the game to keep Duke in control.

“The team worked very hard, mostly in the second half,” head coach Joanne P. McCallie said. “It was a very strong second half defensively and offensively, and we had to kind of learn about ourselves a little bit.”

As the Blue Devils improved in the second half, they showed glimpses of how deep they can be moving forward. Against a ranked opponent in Oregon State just a day earlier, McCallie played a seven-person rotation, which she seemed to be happy to stick with in tight games. But if one of those top seven gets injured or is in foul trouble, multiple backup options showed Sunday that they can be effective when called on.

The Blue Devil bench had its second-most prolific game of the season, scoring 23 points, partly due to freshmen Madison Treece and Jade Williams playing their most efficient games yet, with five and six points, respectively.

“I’m just trying to see who’s ready to play,” McCallie said. “Basketball is a lot of games and they come up fast, especially when they’re two days in a row, so we’re just looking for who’s ready to give energy.”

Although senior center Erin Mathias went scoreless, missing all three of her shots from the field and only grabbing two rebounds in 13 minutes of play, Treece and Williams kept Duke in control in the post. The Blue Devils ended up outscoring the Blue Hose in the paint 40-16 in part due to the freshmen post players.

“We definitely had a size advantage, and it was kind of nice after last night when we played a team that matched us height-wise,” Brown said. “We thought because the post played so well defensively last night that we needed to reward them. We just kept pounding it inside.”

Another Blue Devil coming up big off the bench was junior Faith Suggs, playing lockdown defense and notching her season high in scoring with eight points.

“You don’t have to explain anything to Faith,” McCallie said. “She understands the defenses, the offenses, she understands what to do, and that gives her teammates a lot of confidence and it gives me a lot of confidence. I thought she played her role really, really well.”

Suggs also provides a veteran voice off the bench that will be invaluable to a Duke team loaded with young potential. She is not one of the seven players McCallie played against Oregon State, but if she keeps playing with confidence, she may be able to find her way into the rotation in big games.

The Blue Devils have also improved in terms of taking care of the ball, reaching McCallie’s goal of 12 turnovers or less in each of their last three games. Turnovers have plagued Duke for years and carried over to the beginning of this season, when the Blue Devils averaged almost 17 turnovers a game for their first three matchups. But they have since dropped that number down to 13.3.

The round out Duke’s improvements, sophomore forward Leaonna Odom also continued to provide a consistent third scoring option. Odom is averaging 12.5 points per game with most of those points coming inside the paint to give the Blue Devils a legitimate threat down low. Her elite athleticism and ability to finish in the paint has given Duke a toughness it lacks when she isn’t on the floor. 

Odom scored 14 points against the Blue Hose on 7-of-10 shooting and led the team in rebounds, collecting 10. 

“[Odom] is better than ever,” McCallie said. “Her teammates have confidence in her. She has confidence in herself and she’s just getting started.”

With the Blue Devils entering a challenging part of their schedule featuring games against ninth-ranked Ohio State and No. 3 South Carolina in the next week, they will need all hands on deck to stay afloat.