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Duke women's basketball seniors indispensable in final regular-season home game

Lexie Brown and Rebecca Greenwell combined to score 53 of Duke’s 70 points in their final regular-season game at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Lexie Brown and Rebecca Greenwell combined to score 53 of Duke’s 70 points in their final regular-season game at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

A sellout crowd packed into Cameron Indoor Stadium Sunday afternoon for what was likely one last look at Duke’s most impactful senior class in recent memory, and the Blue Devil veterans put on a show once again.

Fifty-three of Duke’s 70 points in its win against North Carolina came from departing graduate students Rebecca Greenwell and Lexie Brown. For a team that has three younger guards sidelined for the season with injuries, Sunday showed as well as any game that the Blue Devils will go as far as their seniors take them in March.

“You go with the flow and learn to play off each other and I think Lexie and Becca were demonstrating that so well, and everybody was into that,” head coach Joanne P. McCallie said. “They’re quite a group, quite a special group, and I was so glad they could have what we had today. They deserved those fans. They deserved every one of them, and people stayed after to see them as seniors, and you can’t ask for more than that.”

Greenwell dropped 31 points to match a career high, and seven of her 11 made field goals came off assists from Brown. Duke’s two leading scorers have played thousands of minutes together in the backcourt since Brown transferred from Maryland, and it showed in their smiles, high fives and fluidity on the floor Sunday.

Add in effective frontcourt contributors Bego Faz Davalos and Erin Mathias, and Duke’s senior class has scored more than 60 percent of its points this season.

Mathias and Greenwell are part of the group that came up short of the NCAA tournament for the first time in decades two years ago, and Brown watched from the bench that entire season due to NCAA transfer restrictions. Together, they stayed in Durham and spearheaded the effort to bring the program back to prominence last year, doing well enough to earn a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament, and they have kept Duke in the top 25 for this whole year.

Greenwell has been a Blue Devil the longest of anybody, redshirting a year due to injury before playing four full seasons. She is fifth on Duke’s all-time scoring list and has made more career 3-pointers than anybody else in program history. Brown and Mathias are the only two players to have started every game this season, with Mathias becoming the regular first-string center for the first time of her career.

“Everyone played their role. Erin has been amazing—the four-year student-athlete who’s gotten better every year. Didn’t start as a freshman, didn’t start as a sophomore, didn’t start as a junior, she’s just grown and grown and grown,” McCallie said. “From Lexie and Becca’s standpoint, Becca’s been here five years, just made the most of that in everything that she’s done, absolutely everything, and then I wish Lexie had more years here.”

Things will be different next year, of course. All-ACC players like Brown and Greenwell are always difficult to replace, and Duke’s recruiting class in not in ESPN’s top 20, with no incoming freshmen in the top 50 and two in the top 100.

Uncertain times are ahead, but for now, the focus is on what Brown, Greenwell and Mathias can accomplish in the twilight of their college careers. A lot is left on the table for them in March—they have never won an ACC championship and never advanced past the Sweet 16 in the NCAA tournament in a Blue Devil uniform.

A more attainable goal may be simply playing well enough in this weekend’s ACC tournament to earn two more games in front of a home crowd at Cameron. The top four seeds in each region host the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament, and Duke has been hovering just outside the top 16 for most of the season. 

It did not earn a top-four seed in the selection committee’s final bracket preview last week, but since then the Blue Devils have upset then-No. 9 Florida State and earned a double bye in the conference tournament. Another big win or two in the ACC quarterfinals and the semifinals in a potential matchup with No. 4 Louisville would probably be enough to push Duke above that coveted top-16 cutoff.

“To be able to play in here for a couple more games would be ideal, especially being a senior,” Brown said. “I love playing here.”


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