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Duke men's lacrosse cruises to win against Penn after dominant offensive start

<p>Brad Smith added three goals for Duke Saturday.</p>

Brad Smith added three goals for Duke Saturday.

There aren't many lacrosse venues like Koskinen Stadium. It's as good as any in the ACC and among the best in the nation.

But thanks to torrential downpours all Saturday, Duke had to find a different venue with its usual field a sloppy mess.

Fortunately, the Thunderdome has been kind to the Blue Devils over the years—and it was no different this time around.

No. 5 Duke extended its winning streak to three as it scored eight first-quarter goals en route to a comfortable 17-7 victory at the West Campus Turf Fields against Penn. It was nearly a year to the day since the Quakers stunned the Blue Devils in Philadelphia, but with three goals in less than three minutes to start the game, Duke made sure it wouldn't fall victim to Penn once more.

"There was different energy," senior midfielder Brad Smith said of this year's matchup compared to the 2018 edition. "Coach [Danowski] says now we're 4-0 at the Thunderdome, but we have to defend our home practice field because it's our field, we're out here every day and no one knows what goes on here, so it was nice to give somebody a taste of what we do here every day."

Grad student Jake Seau got two of the Blue Devils' first three scores, and after the Quakers finally got on the scoreboard, Smith had an answer less than 90 seconds later. 

Even as the rain poured down in Durham, Duke (4-1) continued to pour it on. By the end of the first quarter, the Blue Devils had opened up an 8-2 advantage with Seau, Joey Manown and Joe Robertson each logging a pair of scores.

A week after Duke found itself having to climb out of a four-goal deficit midway through the third quarter, the Blue Devils took control and never let go.

"To be up 3-0 two-and-a-half minutes in, everyone gets to relax," Duke head coach John Danowski said. "It's always the goal of the week."

Despite the nasty conditions that saw rain pool up near the center of the field, the Blue Devils weren't at all fazed. They picked up right where they started in the second quarter, opening up a nine-goal lead by halftime.

Smith added his second of the day to make it 9-2 and senior Sean Lowrie put home consecutive scores just before the buzzer for intermission.

"That's what we've been playing in all week," Smith said of the weather. "The way we practiced from Tuesday to today was the exact same, and playing on the practice field, there's nothing like that. It felt very comfortable."

Perhaps more impressive than Duke's offensive domination was its play on the defensive side of things. 

Although the Blue Devils surrendered four goals in the game's last 16 minutes, Penn's opportunities were few and far between much of the game. The Quakers got just nine shots on goal in the first three quarters, and the visitors got off just 12 total shots between the second and third quarter after logging the same number in the opening stanza.

Of course, it wasn't all perfect. Following a game in which Duke committed 22 turnovers, nearly leading to a defeat vs. Denver, the Blue Devils had 15 giveaways against Penn (0-2). Some of that was certainly due to the rain and cold, but it's something Duke will need to improve upon—especially with the No. 1 team in the nation visiting in less than two weeks.

"We did turn the ball over, but there were a couple that were execution-style, meaning fundamentals and playing right, and there were a couple that were decision-making, and a couple where we lacked communication," Danowski said. "Those are all areas that we'll continue to work on."

In net, Turner Uppgren got the win, notching seven saves in 56-plus minutes of action while only allowing five goals.

The Blue Devils will now return to the road for the first time since their season opener, as they head to Richmond, Va., for a primetime matchup with the Spiders Friday. And in just 11 days, top-ranked Loyola comes to Durham in what will be a highly-anticipated clash of perennial powerhouses.

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