Seconds into Thursday's game, Lexie Brown drained a 3-pointer, and Cameron Indoor Stadium exploded. That was the start to an extraordinary game by the Duke graduate student, but she did not do it alone. Graduate student Rebecca Greenwell and senior Erin Mathias teamed up with Brown to create an formidable triple threat that took down No. 8 Ohio State 69-60.
Brown gave the Blue Devils the energy they needed to take an early lead. She scored 13 of Duke’s first 21 points, while shooting 3-of-4 from the field and getting three rebounds in the first quarter alone. Brown, a preseason All-American, has played a key role in leading the team and guiding them through big games in the first month of the year.
But after the first quarter, it was no longer just Brown keeping the energy alive on the court. With the Blue Devils struggling with turnovers but still leading by as many as 17 points early in the third quarter, they looked to their big players in the paint like Mathias to use her height advantage and attack the glass.
“It all just started with our energy,” Mathias said. “I was just playing my game and doing what I could to help the team.”
Mathias earned her second career double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds. Although all 10 points and six of the rebounds came in her 17 first-half minutes, Mathias kept the team calm and maintained control of the paint. After a scoreless performance against Presbyterian last Sunday, Mathias was far more engaged in the offense. The Pittsburgh native had four offensive rebounds alone to give Duke extra chances and help offset the wasted opportunities that came from 21 turnovers.
Sophomore Leaonna Odom also totaled double digits in rebounds with a career-high 13 boards to go along with four blocks, helping the Blue Devils outrebound Ohio State 49-30 for the most noticeable difference in the game.
“I loved the rebounding,” Duke head coach Joanne P. McCallie said. “The boards are very important to use, the rebounding is important, the differential is important. Erin and [Leaonna] really came up big. It was the first time this year we’ve had two double-figure rebounders, and that’s important to us as well.”
When the Buckeyes began to pick up the pace in the third quarter, it seemed as if there was nothing Duke could do to stop the run. But eventually, Greenwell came to the rescue for the Blue Devils and made a layup to regain the lead. Greenwell tied Brown with 19 points and totaled four rebounds to contribute to Duke’s 49, and her calm demeanor on the court was a key factor that allowed the Blue Devils to regroup from Ohio State's game-tying 22-5 run.
“We just tried to stay calm,” Greenwell said. “We started rushing a little bit, and toward the end we just really tried to melt the clock, run our offenses, not get out of what we were trying to do. We stayed calm and we had some people step up big for us.”
These three Blue Devils in their final years with the program—Brown, Greenwell and Mathias—have the team covered from the 3-point line to the paint and, most importantly, to its leadership. The three veterans set the bar high for the rest of their young teammates, and their performance Thursday night left no doubt about that.
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