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Duke women's basketball squanders late 9-point lead in loss at Syracuse

After struggling with three fouls in the first half, Lexie Brown heated up after the break to fuel a comeback.
After struggling with three fouls in the first half, Lexie Brown heated up after the break to fuel a comeback.

SYRACUSE, N.Y.—A final chance to gain valuable road experience and another ACC win in preparation for the looming postseason ended in another loss to an unranked team for the Blue Devils. 

In its last road game of the regular season, Duke traveled to the Carrier Dome, only to be defeated by Syracuse 68-65 after the Orange closed the game on a 14-2 in just more than six minutes.

“We just needed to stay more steady,” graduate student Rebecca Greenwell said. “We can’t be a streaky team...we can’t let [the 14-2 run] happen. We just have to buckle down, really focus on defense and get those important stops when we need them.”

It came down to the wire, and with only a four-point lead with less than four minutes to play, Duke turned over the ball three times to allow sophomore Tiana Mangakahia to take over late. A steal led to an open layup, a fast-break assist to tie the game and a 3-pointer to take the lead with less than a minute left to play. 

“We were just making dumb mistakes, turnovers,” Greenwell said. “They were working a lot in transition and hitting some open threes that we lost them on.” 

The Blue Devils had four shots to tie the game in the final minute thanks to an impressive rebounding effort, but none found the bottom of the net, and Leaonna Odom’s shot at the buzzer from the top of the key rattled out.

Mangakahia, who finished with 19 points and 11 assists, did it all for her team early on, scoring or assisting on 15 of her team’s 20 first-quarter points. Duke head coach Joanne P. McCallie tried different matchups on the Australian walking double-double, with graduate student Lexie Brown, freshman Jayda Adams and even senior big Erin Mathias all trying a hand in guarding the NCAA’s leading assister. 

Ultimately, Brown found herself in foul trouble early on, picking up three in the first half. Brown did not let this stop her from leading her team in scoring with 20 points on 6-of-15 shooting. 

A plethora of injured guards and Brown sitting out for the last five minutes of the first half due to foul trouble allowed Adams to assume a bigger role for the Blue Devils. Mangakahia’s efforts in the second quarter gave Syracuse the momentum, but Adams hit two timely shots during Duke scoring droughts to stop the Orange from extending their runs. 

Syracuse shot the lights out from behind the arc in the first half, shooting 11-of-19, led by Mangakahia and redshirt junior Isis Young, who each hit four. Greenwell knocked down three triples herself, trying to keep her team afloat in a sea of Orange threes. But her efforts were not enough, as Syracuse eventually overcame the back-and-forth game and obtained a seven-point lead heading in the locker room at halftime. The Orange knocked down 15 3-pointers in the game as a team, tying Duke’s all-time record of 3-point shots allowed in a game.

The Blue Devils again put up another impressive defensive spurt to begin the second half. Duke went on an 8-0 run to pull within two points thanks to execution on the defensive side of the ball and finally retook the lead on an Odom fast-break layup off another forced turnover by the Orange. Odom finished with 16 points on 6-of-8 shooting but turned over the ball twice down the stretch.

“I’m really proud of [Odom]. She really battled hard, she really did some good things out there,” McCallie said. “I know she was frustrated about some plays and things like that, but as a sophomore, I thought she stepped up. She’s got a great shooting percentage. We have to find a way to get the ball to her more.”

Syracuse would not go away and continued to attack the paint, keeping it within one or two points for the later part of the third period. After blocking a layup, the Orange hit a buzzer-beating layup to end the third quarter with momentum on their side.

Duke went on another 9-0 run to take a 63-54 lead early in the fourth quarter, though it could not hold on.

The Blue Devil bigs once again dominated the boards, outrebounding Syracuse 36-27. The ability to limit second-chance opportunities went a long way to keep it close, but it was not enough to stop Syracuse’s offense from dominating at the end of the game.

“Big shoutout to our bigs for getting those rebounds.... We worked a lot on getting O-boards and kicking it out to the shooters...but we just have to knock those shots down,” Brown said. “I know my shot wasn’t going down. Maybe I could have been more patient and found an open person.”

Duke will play its final two regular-season games at Cameron Indoor Stadium, beginning with No. 12 Florida State Monday at 6 p.m.


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