Despite the scoreboard indicating another loss for the Blue Devils, an overall strong defensive performance Thursday against Miami offers a silver lining and something from which the young Duke squad can build off of as it searches for a first ACC victory.
The Blue Devils held the Hurricanes to a season-low 58 points and forced the visitors to turnover the ball on 32.9 percent of possessions. Using a three-quarter-court 2-3 pressure zone at times to slowdown Miami, Miela Goodchild and Haley Gorecki combined for seven steals en route to the 23 total turnovers forced.
“[It was] a marvelous defensive effort and one which we could not convert. I cannot say enough about this team’s ability to morph into different defenses and pressure that was put on,” head coach Joan McCallie said. “The coachability factor—there are so many fun things going on out there defensively, despite the mismatch problems and the fact that they had such a talented post player. We just got to keep working but without question there was still a great effort there.”
A particularly important stretch was the final 3:19 of the third quarter. Trailing by one, the defense locked down, keeping the Hurricanes off the board and forcing three turnovers to enter the final frame up 41-38. Jayda Adams, who played a career-high in minutes, had a steal during that stretch to cap off an impressive night.
“Jayda is a great spark off the bench. She has played the most minutes she has all year. She had some confident takes and has had some great experience as a sophomore,” McCallie said. “She definitely gives a spark, energy, fight and talks a lot. She definitely vibes defensively with Miela in pressing and putting pressure on the ball.”
Despite Duke doing an effective job of pressuring Miami’s two starting guards into 10 turnovers by pressing early, clogging passing lanes and preventing easy entry passes into the Hurricanes’ potent bigs, the Blue Devils struggled to convert the turnovers into points. They had just 21 points off turnovers due to sloppy finishes on uncontested layups that could have made the difference in an eight-point game. At the break, Duke was just 3-for-9 in the layup department, despite having nine steals and 15 forced turnovers.
“We have to get our layups and free throws and things we can really control squared away,” McCallie said.
“[We need to] just focus, me included. Layups - we missed them in the beginning of the first half and the second half. Just focusing and getting into ourselves as team about the little things,” Gorecki said.
Another point of emphasis moving forward will be defending the paint. Miami had 34 points in the paint, led by Beatrice Mompremier and Emese Hof, who combined for 29 points and 24 rebounds on 55 percent shooting from the field. In the fourth quarter, 18 of the 20 Hurricane points came in the paint or from the charity stripe.
"I think it is really competitive. We are playing against juniors like [Mompremier] and [Hof] is a senior. That is a lot of experience in the post,” McCallied said. “Onome and Jade need to create as young sophomores and freshmen. But without question those two players are experienced. Transfer from Baylor [Mompremier] with a whole lot of experience and certainly Hof. There are some lessons to be learned there.”
The stretch that did the Blue Devils in saw Miami corral an offensive rebound following a missed free throw from Mompremier with the Hurricanes leading 48-47 with 2:22 left to play and Endia Banks converting to give the visitors a three-point lead. On the ensuing Miami possession after a scoreless Duke trip, yet another offensive rebound led to a Mompremier finish with just 83 seconds left, putting the game out of reach for the Blue Devils.
“Really proud of our team, our fight, our effort. It was a very good game against a very nice Miami team - best one I’ve seen from Miami,” McCallie said. “We are in it together and we are learning and we are growing and it is painful but that is the way it is. Miami did some things down the stretch: key offensive rebound off a free-throw – there were just critical plays that occurred and we have got to finish those plays down the stretch.”
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