Last season, Duke lost a total of just eight games heading into the NCAA tournament.
But the Blue Devils have struggled to begin the 2018-19 campaign, and—after dropping their fourth consecutive game at the hands of Miami—have now matched that mark in just over half the contests.
In front of one of the most packed student sections of the season, Duke fell 58-50 to the Hurricanes Thursday night at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Miami dominated the Blue Devils down low, outscoring Duke 34-18 in the paint and winning the rebound battle 40 to 32. Hurricanes forward Beatrice Mompremier—playing in her first game since the sudden passing of her father—led the way with 16 points and 17 rebounds.
With two minutes remaining and the game tied at 47, it was a Mompremier free throw, followed by a second-chance layup from guard Endia Banks, that gave Miami the lead for good. Duke guard Haley Gorecki would promptly turn it over on the end, followed by yet another Mompremier bucket in the paint that put the Hurricanes up five. Less than a minute later, a circus jumper from senior center Emese Hof—who had one second to beat the shot clock off the inbounds pass—proved to be the dagger.
"It is a tough game," Duke head coach Joanne P. McCallie said. "There are some really good teams in our league and Miami is one of them. Yes we had an opportunity to close that game, but you are not going to find me not excited and proud of my team. You are not going to find that. We fought like crazy...it is unfortunate but we will definitely learn from it.”
The Blue Devils struggled to get anything going offensively all night long, shooting just 33.9 percent from the floor. Gorecki continued her shooting slump, scoring just six points and converting on just two of her 12 field goal attempts.
Miami (15-4, 3-1 in the ACC) shot out to an 11-5 lead to begin the contest, anchored by the frontcourt duo of Mompremier and Hof—the two scored or assisted on all 11 of the Hurricanes’ points during the run. But aggressive defense paved the way for a Blue Devil comeback, their deficit cutting to as little as two with three minutes remaining in the quarter. Overall, Duke (8-8, 0-4 in the ACC) forced 23 Miami turnovers, including 15 in the first-half.
"Marvelous defensive effort," McCallie said. "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. 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."
The Blue Devils came out firing in the second quarter, scoring the period’s first eight points and taking their first lead of the game on a Mikayla Boykin jumper. But Mompremier quickly took the lead back for the Hurricanes with a smooth up-and-under move that would've made Hakeem Olajuwon proud.
Duke missed three potential game-tying lineups to end the quarter and entered halftime down 29-25.
Both teams came out of the locker rooms ice-cold, with neither squad scoring for the first three minutes in the second half. Goodchild—who finished with a team-high 13 points including a 3-for-4 mark from downtown—finally broke the ice with a three, and soon a Jade Williams fastbreak layup would give the Blue Devils the lead yet again. The score would remain close for the remainder of the period, with Duke holding a slim 41-38 edge heading into the final ten minutes.
The final period gave the Blue Devils their first chance this year to see how they would hold up in a close battle in crunch time.
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In the end, they just could not get it done.
"It was an adjustment," McCallie said. "I wish we were a little bit more inspired. Mikayla only had 14 minutes and then she was gone for the game, so that is our point guard out. I think that that is hurtful over time, but I think that we have people that can get it done. And if you looked at [junior forward Leaonna Odom] and her attacks to the basket and when she got fouled—I thought people really stepped up."
Next, the Blue Devils will head to Tallahassee, Fla. to take on Florida State Sunday at 2 p.m., still looking for their first ACC win of the season.