In their penultimate home game of the season, the Blue Devils hosted ninth-ranked Florida State and pulled off their highest-ranked ACC upset this season in the annual Play4Kay Contest, raising money for the Kay Yow Cancer Center.
Sporting their pink and white uniforms, the No. 20 Blue Devils bounced back after a road loss at Syracuse with a 79-66 win against the Seminoles, led by a spectacular effort by graduate student Lexie Brown with 30 points on 12-of-19 shooting.
Duke started off slow defensively, with several gaps in the paint allowing for easy points scored by the Seminoles. The Blue Devils found themselves in a 6-2 hole early on in the contest, before Rebecca Greenwell nailed her first trey of the night to narrow the deficit.
More than five minutes into the first quarter, Duke had no defensive rebounds, giving them all up to Florida State’s aggressive offense. Not only did the Blue Devils find themselves in rebound trouble, but also foul trouble. with senior Erin Mathias picking up two fouls early.
After what seemed like a threat of yet another turnover, graduate student Lexie Brown tied the score for the first time by hitting her first 3-pointer of the night. Then, a giveaway for the Seminoles gave Brown another chance at a triple, this time giving the Blue Devils their first lead of the night and injecting the crowd and the team with much-needed energy.
“We had a sense of urgency on defense,” Brown said. “They started hitting some tough shots. I think we had a mindset defensively to stop that run.”
Roles began reversing as the first quarter came to a close. The Blue Devils (21-7, 10-5 in the ACC) held the lead for the rest of the quarter, and the Seminoles began tallying up fouls of their own.
Throughout the second quarter, the Seminoles (22-5, 10-4) kept the scoring margin close, never letting the Blue Devils have a comfortable lead. But it was Florida State’s AJ Alix who retook the lead for the Seminoles midway through the second quarter after hitting one of her three treys in the first half.
After a layup by freshman Jade Williams, Duke took the lead back, and the Splash Sisters struck again. Back-to-back steals from Brown, with one of them leading to a 3-pointer by Greenwell, helped the Blue Devils take their biggest lead of the first half, going up by eight. Florida State fought its way back into the contest, but Duke finished the half with a tight 35-32 lead.
“It’s so fun to watch the team to play together and figure things out,” head coach Joanne P. McCallie said.
The Seminoles kept the score close in the first few minutes of the second half and regained the lead with six minutes left to play in the third quarter. But as Florida State seemed to gain momentum again, the Blue Devils were quick to shut it down.
Duke scored 22 points in the third quarter, and 14 of them belonged the Brown alone after she scored 13 in the first half. The Blue Devils went on a quick 7-0 run to turn a one-point deficit into a 48-42 lead, and the Seminoles never pulled within one possession the rest of the way.
Duke picked up its defensive play and its effort on the boards as the game came to a close. After grabbing eight offensive rebounds in the first half, Duke doubled that number after the break while holding Florida State, one of the league’s best rebounding teams, to only six offensive boards throughout the second half. The Blue Devils’ 24 offensive boards broke a school record.
“That was huge for us tonight,” said Greenwell. “That’s the main emphasis we come into every game, defense and rebounding, so to come out and beat one of the best rebounding teams in the country on the boards is huge.”
The Blue Devils return to action on Sunday against North Carolina in Cameron for their final regular-season game, looking to avenge an overtime loss in Chapel Hill in January. Duke will honor its four graduating players at Sunday’s game.
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