Through 20 minutes Thursday night in Durham, the Blue Devils had just 25 points and entered the locker room with a six-point advantage.
What would they do on offense to respond against an inferior opponent? The answer: a 25-point third-quarter outburst.
Behind the dominant 25-11 period, No. 14 Duke overcame a sluggish start to cruise to a 63-40 victory against Wyoming, as the Blue Devils held their third consecutive opponent to 40 or fewer points for the first time in program history. Duke played without star Rebecca Greenwell yet again as the graduate student is managing knee pain with the start of ACC play 10 days away.
In her stead, the duo of Lexie Brown and Haley Gorecki shouldered much of the offensive load for the second time in three nights—the pair combined for 37 points, 13 rebounds and six assists, making 13 field goals and missing on just one of their 11 total trips to the charity stripe.
"I thought we grabbed that tempo back in the second half," Blue Devil head coach Joanne P. McCallie said. "We had some nice ball pressure by Lexie, some steals by Haley and I like that we had 16 points in transition.... Just a blue-collar game—nothing fancy but getting the job done."
It was slow going in the early minutes for both teams, as neither side could find much of a rhythm in the opening stanza. Together, Duke and the Cowgirls shot just 9-of-28 from the field in the first 10 minutes, and it didn't get much better in the second quarter. At halftime, there was just one made 3-pointer on 12 combined attempts.
But with their matchup zone in full force, the Blue Devils (10-2) turned to their bread and butter to get things going. And against a Wyoming team facing its first major-conference opponent this season, Duke feasted on the defensive end, which ultimately set up its offense for success.
"In the second half, we had everybody out there working together," McCallie said. "We pressed a little bit, fed off each other and tried to drive the ball at them a little bit more."
Part of the Blue Devils' early struggles were a result of playing without not just Greenwell, but also Brown, who picked up her second foul less than 30 seconds into the second quarter.
McCallie opted to sit her leading scorer for the remainder of the half, instead leaning on other backcourt options to play extra minutes against the Cowgirls (7-4). Junior Faith Suggs and freshman Jayda Adams both saw at least 22 minutes of action, yet the pair mustered only eight points between them on just six shots.
So when Brown returned to the floor at the start of the second half, the All-American guard added some much-needed fuel to stoke Duke's fire.
"Nothing really changed," Brown said. "I felt like, even in the first half, I was in a pretty good offensive rhythm—I just got those fouls. I just trusted what Coach P chose to do, sitting me in the first half, and I just knew I had to come out on fire in the second half to make up for lost time."
With a 14-3 spurt in fewer than three and a half minutes, what was a tight contest at halftime turned into a game that felt well out of reach. Although Wyoming used a balanced offense with no player posting double-figure points, the Cowgirls were limited to just 14 made field goals on 49 attempts and struggled to hold onto the basketball, committing 22 turnovers.
Thanks to their steady defense, the Blue Devils eased to a 50-30 lead by the end of 30 minutes, doubling their first-half output in just one quarter, and coasted to victory in the final 10 minutes. Gorecki finished one rebound shy of a double-double, and sophomore Leaonna Odom, despite managing only two points on the night, racked up three blocks as Duke won the scoring battle in the paint 34-14.
The Blue Devils will now have more than a week until their next matchup as they get some time away from Durham for the holidays. They will then return for a final nonconference tilt with Liberty Dec. 29 before opening ACC play on the road at Miami.
"We're growing as a team and people are finding their roles. That's important," McCallie said. "It's a special time of year as we head into the new year."
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A junior from just outside Philadelphia, Mitchell is probably reminding you how the Eagles won the Super Bowl this year and that the Phillies are definitely on the rebound. Outside of The Chronicle, he majors in Economics, minors in Statistics and is working toward the PJMS certificate, in addition to playing trombone in the Duke University Marching Band. And if you're getting him a sandwich with beef and cheese outside the state of Pennsylvania, you best not call it a "Philly cheesesteak."