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Duke women's basketball unable to create separation in sloppy first half

<p>Haley Gorecki struggled from the field Sunday.</p>

Haley Gorecki struggled from the field Sunday.

There’s no doubt that Duke’s 64-56 win against Marist was hard-fought in the first half, and that the Blue Devils had a difficult time breaking away from tight competition.

Although Duke rode a strong fourth quarter to victory, the Red Foxes hung around for much of the contest due to strong shooting and poor offensive execution by the Blue Devils. Early in the first quarter, junior Leaonna Odom made a layup that was quickly countered with a 3-pointer by Marist. This set the tone for a good portion of the game. The two teams went back and forth in turnovers and in the lead. Four minutes into the game, Duke had two turnovers while Marist had one. The Blue Devils led for a couple of minutes, only to have the Red Foxes come back on top.  

By the time the two teams were called off the court for their first media timeout, they were tied at seven. However, Marist quickly came out of the timeout with a shot by Alana Gilmer and held the lead for the remainder of the first quarter. The Blue Devils tried to fight offensively, but their attempts resulted in a lot of missed shots and turnovers. By the end of the period, Odom had three of her team’s five turnovers to her name, but she wasn’t the only one responsible for them.

“[Odom] is adjusting to a new role as [head coach Joanne P. McCallie] said, so we have to make it an easier pass for her,” redshirt junior Haley Gorecki said. "I think we’re putting ourselves in different situations or not good situations for her, so yeah, we have to get open a lot better, but set good screens or whatever, but I guess that’s our fault. Her turnovers are our faults.”

The second quarter was centered around Duke catching up and the Red Foxes having some foul trouble. About one minute into the quarter, Marist scored and the Blue Devils were down by four. Duke began slowly reeling in some points when a few fouls were called on the opposition. Sophomore Jade Williams and freshman Miela Goodchild made free throws, but the Red Foxes responded with three 3-pointers in a row. 

Although Goodchild responded with a couple of triples as well, Gorecki missed shots which could have assisted in picking the team back up. Gorecki struggled to find her shot in the first half, as she walked into the locker room just 1-for-9 from the field with her team trailing by one.  

Based on the sloppy mistakes from the first half, there were some adjustments that the women had to make in order to come out of the game with a win against Marist. There needed to be less turnovers, better shooting from Gorecki and better perimeter defense. The Blue Devils knew what they had to do and locked down the win. 

“It would be nice if the whole fourth quarter was the whole game, but I thought the team figured it out, went for strengths and looked for each other. Haley found a neat slip,” McCallie said. “[Leaonna] coming down for the shot there I think it’s part of the game.”

Although the Blue Devils initially had a tough time getting into the game, the struggle and learning from mistakes were part of the team's growth process to figure out how to improve and more quickly adjust to games as a team.

“If you want it to be easy all the time, you’re not really a competitor," McCallie said. "Time-and-score games, these are a blast, they are hard and you must execute and stick together. We were connected today in a very good way and that’s something we’ll play off of.”