aLOUISVILLE, Ky.—Without graduate student Rebecca Greenwell for the fifth time in six games due to knee pain, the Blue Devils' other shooting guard couldn't miss for a half Thursday night.
But it still was not enough to keep up with the nation's third-ranked team.
Despite Haley Gorecki's career-high 25 points on 10-of-14 shooting, Louisville held off No. 17 Duke Thursday 66-60 at the KFC Yum! Center. National player of the year candidate Asia Durr returned from a second-quarter injury scare to nearly match Gorecki's production with 22 points and overcome the Blue Devils' 49.0 percent clip from the field.
Gorecki is averaging 17.5 points per game in Duke’s last six contests with Greenwell mostly absent and Mikayla Boykin out for the season. After missing a year and a half prior to this season with hip injuries, she is hitting her stride.
“She’s never been a secret, she just disappeared for a while, and I think what you’re seeing is Haley Gorecki, how she plays,” Blue Devil head coach Joanne P. McCallie said. “She can shoot the three, she can go off the bounce, she’s very confident and I’m just so happy for her because she was out a long time.”
Despite trailing by as many as 14 late in the third quarter, Duke went on a 15-4 run to start the fourth quarter and cut Louisville's lead to three with less than three minutes left when Gorecki made a 3-pointer from the wing.
But Lexie Brown missed an attempt from deep that would have tied it and missed another off-balance midrange jumper on the next possession.
The Cardinals then made three free throws down the stretch to ice the win.
“We finally got in our groove. It was late to get in the groove, but I thought we really got in the groove in terms of terms of hustle plays,” McCallie said. “We’re a good shooting team, but the blue-collar nature of the game—we’re going to talk a lot about rebounding.”
Durr knocked down back-to-back triples early in the first quarter as part of a 12-0 run to put Louisville (17-0, 3-0 in the ACC) ahead by double digits early. Although Duke (11-4, 0-2) shot 8-of-10 from the field in the first quarter, it still trailed by 10 at the end of the period due to seven turnovers and Durr's 14-point explosion in the first 10 minutes.
“We couldn’t shot contest if you paid us to. I was not surprised at Asia making those shots, I was surprised at us not running through her. For gosh sakes, get her to put the ball on the floor,” McCallie said. “In the second half, I thought we just did a really good job locating her and running through her, so to speak, so that she had to make some other decisions.”
But Durr's night was put in jeopardy early in the second quarter, when Blue Devil freshman Jayda Adams crossed her up and the Cardinal guard crumpled to a heap on defense. She had to be carried straight off the floor to the locker room after the non-contact injury as an exuberant crowd went silent, and Duke cut a 14-point deficit in half while she was out thanks to Gorecki's lights-out shooting.
Durr returned to the floor late in the quarter, though, as Louisville stretched its lead back to 13 before Gorecki responded with a triple in the closing seconds.
“We had a kick of energy that we came out with,” Gorecki said. “My teammates kept on getting me the good looks.”
Gorecki scored 19 points before intermission on a perfect 8-of-8 shooting, but did not get much offensive help from Duke's leading scorer, Brown. The graduate student guard went scoreless in the first half and only attempted two shots before the break. Freshman guard Dana Evans' stellar man-to-man defense almost completely bottled up the former All-American—she finished with eight points on 2-of-12 shooting.
“She just had really good ball pressure. I need to be more patient the last couple games,” Brown said. “I just haven’t been able to get it going offensively. That’s on me, but credit their defense. I just have to adjust how I play the game.”
Although Brown led the Blue Devils with nine rebounds, the Cardinals controlled the paint all night, turning 16 offensive rebounds into 12 second-chance points thanks primarily to the efforts of senior Myisha Hines-Allen, who had a double-double with 13 points and 10 boards. Duke sophomore Leaonna Odom was effective as a scorer inside with 14 points, but the Blue Devils did not draw many whistles and only attempted eight free throws.
“You’ve got to get to the free-throw line. We’re 4-of-8, they’re 13-of-20. That’s an enormous differential,” McCallie said. “What causes that? I don’t know, but that can’t happen in a game of that level. That’s too many free shots, so something’s got to give. We’ve got to play better and not foul or we’ve got to get calls.”
Duke cooled off dramatically in the third quarter after shooting 71.4 percent before the break and Louisville continued to capitalize on the Blue Devils’ miscues, finishing the night with 21 points off turnovers.
The Blue Devils will play their ACC home opener against N.C. State Sunday afternoon, still searching for their first conference win after dropping their first two ACC games for the first time in 25 years.
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