On Duke’s third possession of the game, a now-familiar sight for Duke fans was unfolding: leading scorer Haley Gorecki was charging up the lane with the ball.
But the 6-foot redshirt junior didn’t pull up to lay it in—she dished it. The pass to sophomore forward Jade Williams didn’t go through, and East Carolina took over. The Blue Devils’ next possession, redshirt freshman Mikayla Boykin also charged to the basket, but the ball was lost again in Duke's second turnover of the game.
After committing 16 turnovers in the first half, the Blue Devils gave up the ball only six times in the second as Duke defeated the Pirates 83-66 at Cameron Indoor Stadium Friday evening. Gorecki went on to finish the first half with 17 points and the game with a season-high total of 26, notching her second straight double-double. Freshman guard Miela Goodchild piled on 19 more points—a career-high—to overpower the Pirates.
“The basketball gods have a way of challenging you at certain times when you think things are automatic,” head coach Joanne P. McCallie said. “So we got into a little slow start. [I] love how we came out in the second half, and we’ll try to work from there.”
The Blue Devils (7-4) heated up from the 3-point line in the third quarter to bury the game and extend their lead, hitting a fiery 76.5 percent of their field goals and knocking down more triples in those 10 minutes than the rest of the game combined.
Duke came into the match-up after falling to then-No. 11 Oregon State on the road last week. Looking to get back on their feet before heading into ACC play, the Blue Devils relied on Gorecki and Goodchild for offense. The pair of sharpshooters combined for 45 points, as Gorecki’s lone 3-point basket of the night extended her streak to eight games with a made trey. The win kept the Blue Devils’ record perfect at home so far this season
Freshman forward Onome Akinbode-James also made noise for the Blue Devils Friday, finishing with six points and eight rebounds. Her most thunderous play of the game came near the end of the first half, when a powerful block left the Pirates’ leading scorer on her back. Akinbode-James hauled in a rebound on the following possession.
Then Goodchild gave the Blue Devils a powerful offensive boost in the third quarter. The freshman from Queensland, Australia opened the half in scoring for the Blue Devils with a fast-break layup, then made two 3-point attempts in a row a few possessions later, with her parents in the audience. She finished 4-of-7 for the day beyond the arc.
Goodchild was one of several players who shared in ball-handling duties for the Blue Devils, as redshirt freshman point guard Mikayla Boykin played 22 minutes in her third game back from ACL surgery.
“I think we’re a team where we have different talents and we really need to look to use them,” McCallie said. “As you see Mikayla is coming back off her injury and that type of thing, but I think the more versatility we have as a team, the better off we are going to be as a team.”
The team, which averages 19.3 turnovers per game, finished Friday's match with 22. Choosing better passes is key, McCallie explained.
“I think in the first half we tried to make a lot of hard plays in my opinion," McCallie said.
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Boykin finished her first start of the season with four rebounds and nine points. Williams fouled out of the contest with five minutes left, notching four points and six rebounds on the day.
The Pirates (9-3) came into the game under new leadership and on a four-game win streak. Interim head coach Nicole Mealing, an assistant coach in the program, took the reins after Chad Killinger stepped away temporarily for an illness.
Guard Raven Johnson, the Pirates’ leading scorer, notched 13 points on the night, followed by forwards Destiny Campbell and Desiree Corbin, who also scored in double digits.
The Blue Devils will look ahead to Sunday’s matchup against Florida Gulf Coast at Cameron before they head to Raleigh to open conference play against N.C. State.
“We’ve got a better team coming in Sunday,” McCallie said. “Another challenge, a good challenge, and we’re excited for that.”