Duke headed to its first-ever Gulf Coast Showcase hoping to win its third consecutive game and prove that season-opening blowout against Northwestern was a fluke.
Instead, the Blue Devils’ play caused even more concern, dropping the tournament opener to Washington 71-64 at Hertz Arena in Estero, Fla. Duke was plagued by an extremely slow start to the contest, as the Blue Devils were unable to notch a point on the scoreboard until three minutes in and headed into halftime with a season-low 24 points.
“You cannot wait—there is nothing waiting in this game,” head coach Joanne P. McCallie told GoDuke.com. “You got to be ready to go from the jump regardless of circumstance. Obviously we missed a few buckets early and that was disappointing, but that cannot be anything to define you—you just got to keep playing hard all the time.”
Redshirt junior Haley Gorecki and sophomore Leaonna Odom paced the Blue Devils in the first quarter, scoring all 12 of the team’s points. But, Duke could not handle the Huskies' offense, which had five different scorers help them jump out to a 16-9 advantage after 10 minutes.
Washington only widened its edge in the second quarter, as the Blue Devils continued to struggle to move the ball around. While Odom and Gorecki had 11 and nine points respectively, two layups from sophomore Jade Williams and senior Faith Suggs represented the team’s only other first-half buckets.
“[We had a] great opportunity for broken play offense against their press,” McCallie said. “We did not take full advantage of that at all.”
Duke began to cut into the deficit in the third-quarter behind the hot hand of freshman Miela Goodchild. The Australian scored nine of her 12 total points in the quarter including two 3-pointers, though the Blue Devils still entered the final period down 52-42.
“Miela in the first half really struggled—[she was] turning the ball over [and] was not seeing the floor well and finding people,” McCallie said. “But she collected herself—I thought she did a good job collecting and showing poise in the second-half.”
The fourth-quarter began slowly, with only four baskets between the two teams making up the first five minutes. Washington scored the period’s first four points, stretching its lead to 14 with six minutes remaining. But then, the Blue Devils started to finally show some life.
Duke scored 17-points in the game’s final three minutes, cutting the deficit to as few as five. And although the Blue Devils were unable to crawl all the way back, McCallie was impressed with the way her team played over that final stretch.
“I liked the fight at the end,” McCallie said. “I liked the intensity and execution—there were a lot of good things that occurred at that time.”
Duke was led by Gorecki’s 20 points, while Odom followed suit with 19 points and 10 rebounds, her third double-double of the season. The duo combined to shoot only 13-of-34 from the field, though, and the Blue Devils shot a measly 40.4 percent from the field overall. Washington was led by 18 points from junior Amber Melgoza and 17 from sophomore Missy Peterson.
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The Huskies also outplayed Duke in the post, winning the rebound battle 35-31 while scoring 30 points in the paint compared to the Blue Devils’ 26. The largest disparity, however, was between the team’s bench-scoring. Duke was only able to manage two points off the bench, while 27 of Washington’s total came from the second-unit.
“[I] cannot stand the fact that we were outrebounded again,” McCallie said. “Our post play has really got to pick it up. [We] did not get a lot from the post play. [We] got in some foul trouble again and we’ve got to make improvements there.”
Next, the Blue Devils will move on to face Ball State—which suffered its own 78-70 defeat Friday at the hands of Fordham—in the consolation bracket Saturday at 11 a.m. The winner of that contest will move on to the fifth-place game Sunday, with the loser taking part in the tournament’s seventh-place battle.