CORAL GABLES, Fla.—The Blue Devils survived four games with preseason All-American graduate student Rebecca Greenwell sidelined due to knee injury thanks to the leadership of graduate student Lexie Brown, whose play earned her two straight ACC Player of the Week awards.
To begin the ACC gauntlet, Greenwell returned alongside Brown in Duke’s backcourt in hopes of keeping the team’s five-game winning streak alive, but both were shut down in another disappointing offensive performance.
The Blue Devils traveled to South Beach and lost 51-48 to Miami Sunday afternoon in a New Year's Eve ACC opener for both teams. The unranked Hurricanes gave No. 14 Duke its third loss of the season, exposing its stagnant offense with a physical man-to-man defense throughout the game. Despite Duke’s defense only allowing 12 fourth-quarter points, it could not even get a shot up at the rim on two key possessions in a row late.
“It was just a tough game, a blue-collar game, a well-fought game in terms of effort. I think everyone was fighting very hard out there,” head coach Joanne P. McCallie said. “We’re going to have to learn to play off each other more—the assist total was very disturbing—and also keep our poise more when we have to get things done on the floor.”
Brown, who only finished with 10 points and had nine turnovers, hit her first 3-pointer of the game at a crucial moment to bring Duke (11-3, 0-1 in the ACC) within two points with 27 seconds left. But after Miami hit 1-of-2 free throws, Greenwell's potential game-tying triple at the buzzer came up short from the wing.
Redshirt senior Shaneese Bailey and forward Erykah Davenport led Miami (11-3, 1-0) with 13 points each and provided their team with an energy source that controlled momentum for most of the game.
“If I had thought of a difference maker, I would say number 30, Davenport,” McCallie said. “She put her team on her back and she had to do something exceptional for her team to win a close game, and she did.”
The only thing keeping Duke from taking control was the complete lockdown of Brown and Greenwell, who combined for only 14 points. Thankfully for the Blue Devils, redshirt sophomore Haley Gorecki stepped up and continuously attacked the basket, giving Duke 16 points with two 3-pointers.
“Haley is doing a great job attacking,” McCallie said. “Haley’s going off the bounce and doing a lot of great things. Her teammates are definitely looking for her, but Haley’s really stepped up her game.”
Brown’s struggles continued into the second half, as she forced the issue trying to get going offensively. She began the third quarter going 0-for-2, getting blocked and stripped on two consecutive plays. The Hurricanes' physicality made Brown uncomfortable and took her out of her game, frequently trapping her to force turnovers.
“We just need to slow down on offense,” Brown said. “I just have to think a little bit more, slow down myself and expect double teams.”
As for Greenwell, it still looked as if she was recovering from her knee injury, as she only took eight shots and was a non-factor on both sides of the ball.
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Duke began the game in a stingy 2-3 halfcourt zone press, which forced six Hurricane turnovers in their first eight possessions. This suffocating defense left Miami few opportunities to even get a good shot up, and the Blue Devils took an early 10-2 lead.
However, the Blue Devils could not seem to run away with a bigger lead in the first period, as they committed six turnovers of their own and did not convert on fast-break layups. This lack of execution on Duke’s part allowed the Hurricanes to get back into the game near the end of the first quarter, as they started to break down Duke’s zone.
After the first half, it was clear that despite being down 27-24, the Hurricanes played with more strength and hustle down low, outrebounding Duke 22-18 before the break. Both senior Erin Mathias and graduate transfer Bego Faz Davalos found it hard to box out Miami’s bigs, especially Davenport, who finished the game with 14 boards.
Miami finally took the lead in the third quarter with a 3-pointer from freshman Mykea Gray, who otherwise struggled, only scoring seven points on 2-of-11 shooting. The Hurricanes did not look back, staying in the lead for most of the remainder of the game and coming away with the victory.
Duke's road will not get any easier next, as it travels to face No. 3 Louisville Thursday.