Duke’s strong perimeter defense hobbled Florida Gulf Coast’s 3-point shooting Sunday afternoon.
A small Eagles team couldn’t find a rhythm inside when its perimeter shooting, typically the centerpiece of its offense, wasn’t working. Coming into the contest, head coach Karl Smesko’s squad was second in the nation in long-range volume, averaging 12.5 made 3-pointers per game. But the Blue Devils’ tough defense held the Eagles to a season-low 41 points on 7-of-37 shooting from deep.
“I thought we flustered them. I didn’t think they took [3-point shots] very open,” head coach Joanne P. McCallie said. “I thought we were contesting and, for the most part, getting to them and forcing them to take a quicker three.”
Triples still made up 51 percent of Florida Gulf Coast's scoring, but the Blue Devils exploited the Eagles' dismal 18.9 percent shooting from behind the arc.
“I feel like if the energy on defense is up, that will create a lot of things on the offensive end. And that’s what the team did, and we were very successful playing great defense today,” said guard Mikayla Boykin, who finished with 10 points and a career-high seven assists.
Duke’s strong defensive effort mitigated the Eagles’ sharpshooters. Sophomore guard Chandler Ryan entered the contest shooting 50 percent from behind the arc—seventh nationally—and sank 40 triples through 12 games. However, the Blue Devils quieted her production, and she went 0-of-5 beyond the arc in Durham. Only one Florida Gulf Coast player, Nasrin Ulel, finished in double figures with 11 points.
The Eagles also rarely got second chances on their misses, with Duke chasing down long rebounds throughout the game. Florida Gulf Coast missed 43 shots from the field and four free throws, but only got the offensive rebound 11 times.
“Our team showed great resolve and resilience because it’s somehow easier to defend and rebound when your shots are going in. I look at Haley Gorecki, eight rebounds, you know, someone who missed some shots she normally makes,” McCallie said. “That’s going to set the tone for blue-collar games, conference games, where people know you a little bit better, so that’s what we accomplished today.
Duke will need to carry Sunday’s defensive momentum into its first conference battle against No. 9 N.C. State Thursday as it looks to hand the Wolfpack their first loss of the season.
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