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Lineup switch opens floor up for Duke women's basketball's Erin Mathias

One Duke player may be joining the family of the “Splash Sisters.” Although graduate student Lexie Brown is not quick to add a cousin to the tight-knit family, which consists of herself and classmate Rebecca Greenwell, she said there may be room for a “Splash Step-Sister.”

The Blue Devils made a change to the starting lineup Thursday night against UNC Greensboro. That alteration included strengthening one of Duke’s already strong areas of its lineup: its overpowering size. Graduate student Bego Faz Davalos replaced freshman Mikayla Boykin in the lineup for her first start in a Blue Devil uniform and her 74th in her career after transferring from Fresno State, paving the way for a career milestone for a different Duke forward.

Senior Erin Mathias played her 100th career game against South Carolina and started the new century with a bang. The Pittsburgh native had another memorable night, scoring a career-high 24 points on 12-of-18 shooting from the field.

The senior set her previous career high less than a week ago with 16 points in Duke’s 20-point loss to South Carolina Sunday afternoon. But Thursday night, Mathias took her game to a new level. For the first time in her career, Mathias has produced double-digit point performances in three straight games.

“It’s nice to see Erin more at a true four, which was what she was playing,” Blue Devil head coach Joanne P. McCallie said. “We definitely got better. That’s all we want is to get better every time we play."

Playing at the power forward position for Mathias required a change in the high-powered Blue Devils' offensive spacing. But that adjustment may have sparked a component of her game that was on full display in Duke’s 85-54 win. With the Blue Devils starting Davalos, who maintains a low post presence, the high post opened up for Mathias.

For a forward to shoot 66.7 percent during the game is impressive in itself. But to do so without many point-blank layups takes the performance up a notch. On the night, Mathias stepped into several mid-range jump shots to account for her 18 attempts. Nevertheless, the senior was quick to acknowledge the help from her teammates. But for Brown, the roles were reversed.

“Our floor spacing is a lot better, and I think Erin just did a really good job of just finding her spots,” Brown said. “She made the passing lanes way easier for me, and people are really concerned about Becca, so they were playing really wide out so the middle was wide open. Erin did a really good job of finding open spots.”

The guards and the forwards in this game played very well together, which was spearheaded by Brown’s nine assists to go along with 20 points. Mathias pointed to the play of Brown, which gave the forward some open space near the free throw line.

Mathias’ ability to expand her range will aid McCallie in solidifying her lineup moving forward. Sophomore Leaonna Odom was able to play the three spot in the lineup, where she has the ability to create off the dribble. The 11th-year Duke head coach likes Odom in that position with the ACC’s top backcourt to accompany the tall lineup.

“[Mathias is] a very good catch-and-shoot player, thought she hit open shots. At the end of the day, it’s about making shots, and she hit some open shots as we didn’t rotate quick enough in the zone to the short corner area and the high post,” UNC Greensboro head coach Trina Patterson said. “We were stretched out and more concerned about their two top players, Brown and Greenwell, so Mathias came up and hit some big shots.”

At the end of the day, Mathias expanding her game and shooting the way she did against UNC Greensboro will bode well for the final season in her career. On the season, she is now hovering slightly on the positive side of 10 points per game. Mathias credits the backcourt, mainly Brown and Greenwell, for their ability to get the ball into the high post position.

“Honestly, I just feed off of my guards,” Mathias said. “They find me in those situations, so all credit goes to them. I think if we continue moving the ball like we did today, good things turn out well.”


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