After a comeback that fell short against Washington, the Blue Devils rebounded with a balanced scoring attack and stringent defensive intensity to get back in the win column.
In its second game of the Gulf Coast Showcase, Duke used an early lead to propel the team to a 79-62 victory against Ball State Saturday. On the afternoon, the Blue Devils were led by redshirt junior Haley Gorecki and true junior Leaonna Odom who scored 19 and 13 points respectively, at Hertz Arena in Estero, Fla.
Odom finished the contest with nine rebounds and six assists on 6-of-14 shooting.
“Good start. Very aggressive, getting after it,” Duke head coach Joanne P. McCallie told GoDuke.com. “It’s important that we pick that up and learn how to do that for 40 minutes.”
As a team, the Blue Devils shot 52.5 percent to Ball State’s 30.8 percent and outrebounded the Cardinals (1-4) 45-38.
“It’s a start. We haven’t been outrebounding our opponents,” McCallie said. “It’s definitely a start of something that we can build on.”
The Blue Devil victory was No. 300 for McCallie in only 382 contests. She became the quickest ACC coach in league history to reach that mark at one university. McCallie surpassed legendary coach Kay Yow, who accomplished the same feat in 397 games at N.C. State.
To open the first quarter, the Blue Devils (3-2) did not let Friday’s loss stand in the way of a strong start. After a steal by senior Faith Suggs, Odom converted a layup to put her team up six only a few minutes into the game. After Ball State inched back with two triples to even the score at 13, Duke stormed ahead with an 8-0 run off three-pointers from sophomore Jayda Adams and Gorecki to close out the first period.
Ball State brought its team within single digits three minutes into the second quarter, but the senior Suggs and freshman Miela Goodchild stole the show.
“[Goodchild’s] a great shooter,” Gorecki told GoDuke.com. “She’s really becoming a go-to player.”
With the team up nine points, Suggs made a pair of free throws before converting a layup on the next possession. After an Odom turnover, the senior was fouled once again. Just like before, Suggs drained a pair from the charity strip to give her team a 32-19 advantage.
The Flossmoor, Ill., native added 12 points on 4-of-5 from the field in her start, recorded six rebounds and committed three fouls.
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“She’s playing like a senior,” McCallie said regarding Suggs. “A few too many fouls, but I’ve got to say those are aggressive fouls and she’s really getting after it.”
In the next two minutes, the Queensland, Australia native knocked down a trio of three-pointers to extend the Blue Devil lead to 18.
But Ball State responded with four points of its own looking to go into the locker room down only 14 points. However, after two Cardinal free throws with only three seconds remaining in the half, Blue Devil freshman Rayah Craig, who had just entered the game, made a three-pointer as the horn sounded to put her team ahead 44-27.
At halftime, Goodchild led all scorers with 13 points on a perfect 5-of-5 from the field and three triples. She finished the game with the same number of points.
“It was a great spark. I like how she spots up. I like how her teammates found her to spot up,” McCallie said of Goodchild. “She just has to keep that intensity, keep that focus. You don’t want players to be one-half players. She’s a full game player.”
With two triples to her name, Gorecki finished the half with eight points and Suggs converted all four of her shots from the charity stripe en route to six points.
The Blue Devils shot 7-of-9 from long range and shot 52 percent from the field in the half.
The scoring was even through the first three-and-a-half minutes of the second half until the Cardinals used an 8-0 run to begin to lower the deficit. But after an Odom fast-break layup and a Gorecki triple, the lead increased to 18 with 1:08 remaining in the penultimate quarter.
In the final quarter of the consolation semifinal matchup, Duke did not allow the Cardinals to gain any momentum after trading buckets in the first few minutes.
After Ball State freshman Thelma Dis Agustsdottir scored a basket from the paint with 4:15 left in the game, the Blue Devil defense locked down and forced misses on the Cardinals’ final six shots.
Freshman Onome Akinbode-James contributed a career-high seven points on 3-of-5 shooting and recorded two steals and a block. In 21 minutes of action, the 6-foot-3 forward tied her career-high with six rebounds.
Off the bench, sophomore Jade Williams added nine points on 4-of-6 shooting and three rebounds.
Although Duke registered six blocks and 12 steals, one area that will be addressed in the coming weeks will be the number of turnovers it committed. Starters Odom, Goodchild and Akinbode-James combined for 21 of the team’s season-high 29 giveaways.
“When you turn the ball over 29 times, it’s amazing actually, we score the amount of points that we scored considering how many opportunities we gave up,” McCallie said.
Gorecki said after the game that the two biggest points of emphasis for the final game in Florida are turnovers and rebounds.
Duke will face No. 21 Missouri in the fifth-place game Sunday at 1:30 p.m. The Tigers lost by 16 points to Michigan in the first round before defeating Quinnipiac 65-51 Saturday.
“It’s a great opportunity,” McCallie said. “Just having another game, another opportunity to play a higher-level before we leave this place.”