Four days after Duke narrowly extended its run of dominance against Virginia in a physical defensive struggle, it needed a lot more scoring to continue one of the program's most remarkable streaks at Virginia Tech.
The No. 15 Blue Devils beat the Hokies 86-75 at Cassell Coliseum in Blacksburg, Va., for their 72nd straight victory against teams from the state of Virginia. Although Duke trailed by eight late in the second quarter, it closed the half strong thanks to the heroics of star guard Lexie Brown, who scored her 1,000th point in a Blue Devil uniform—becoming the second-fastest player in program history to reach that mark—and finished the game with 23 as Duke built a commanding lead with a 31-point third quarter.
"Points aside, this has been an amazing experience for me. People ask me all the time if I’m happy with this decision I made [to transfer from Maryland], and I’m so happy," Brown told GoDuke.com. "Putting basketball aside, the moments and memories I’ve made have been amazing, but to score 1,000 points here, I can leave my mark here, which is exactly what I wanted to do when I came here."
Redshirt sophomore Haley Gorecki added a career-high 28 points on 7-of-10 shooting from long distance to help the Blue Devils easily clear 70 points for just the second time in the last nine games. Duke also allowed a season high in points.
Virginia Tech guard Taylor Emery scored eight straight points by herself midway through the second quarter with two 3-pointers and a jumper in the lane to start a 15-2 run that put Virginia Tech in front 37-29, but Brown came alive in the final minute and a half of the period.
The graduate student stopped the bleeding with a 3-point play with 1:12 remaining in the half, and after Erin Mathias pulled Duke (15-4, 4-2 in the ACC) within three points with a pair of free throws, Leaonna Odom got a block to force a shot clock violation on what the Hokies hoped would be the last real possession of the half.
But with the Blue Devils needing to go almost the length of the floor in 2.1 seconds, Brown took the inbounds pass, pulled up and drained a shot from closer to midcourt than the 3-point line.
"It was nice to see the ball go into the basket. I just kind of threw it up there, which is funny that that’s the only [3-pointer] I made the whole day," Brown said. "That was definitely an energy booster, and it definitely killed all the momentum that Virginia Tech had."
Brown picked up where she left off with a jumper to start the second half to cross 1,000 points in just the second year of her Duke career, and though the Hokies (13-6, 2-4) traded baskets for the next few possessions to pull even at 45-45, the Blue Devils then broke the game open with a 16-2 run. Gorecki made two 3-pointers and added a 3-point play during the run, and Duke shot a sizzling 13-of-16 from the field in the third period.
Although the Hokies struggled to score in the paint, they stayed in the game in the first half by pushing the pace and firing away from deep, knocking down 7-of-17 attempts from beyond the arc before the break. Emery, a 42.1 percent 3-point shooter entering the game, found space to make six triples and finished with a game-high 30 points.
"She’s quite a player, obviously had a tremendous game, so we’ll have to learn from that," Blue Devil head coach Joanne P. McCallie said. "Every year is different, and this is a very good Virginia Tech team."
When Virginia Tech missed its jump shots, it often chased them down for long offensive rebounds, scoring 23 second-chance points. Duke has now been outrebounded in all five of its conference games despite being the tallest team in the ACC.
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"We know what our problem is. If we didn’t give any second shots, this game would have been very, very good for us," McCallie said. "Although we’ve got sometimes a smaller lineup or a bigger lineup, we’ve just got to look at those rebounding stats and try to work very hard to change them."
The Blue Devils will return to the floor Sunday afternoon in Chapel Hill against archrival North Carolina.