CHAPEL HILL—Looking for their first ACC road win of the season, the Blue Devils needed to put together four full quarters to successfully battle a Tar Heel team on a five-game winning streak.
On the back of impressive shooting percentages, Duke did just that.
The Blue Devils defeated Tobacco Road rival North Carolina 85-69 at Carmichael Arena in Chapel Hill Thursday night. Duke featured four players in double digits—freshman Miela Goodchild, redshirt junior Haley Gorecki along with juniors Leaonna Odom and Jade Williams. Goodchild had 14 points, Gorecki had 28 and Odom had 21. Williams added 13 points and seven rebounds to the overall count.
"Proud of our team trying to get everybody involved. Four people in double figures is a foreign concept for us," head coach Joanne P. McCallie said. "Any time you can shoot 57% from the floor what that indicates to me is that you are patient and we looked to find people in the right spots."
The Blue Devils (11-11, 3-7 in the ACC) got an extra boost from the absence of Tar Heel star Paris Kea, who did not play due to sickness. Kea previously was a major part of the North Carolina offense, and has averaged 25.5 points and 5.3 assists per game so far this season.
Kea was also a major part of the Tar Heels’ take-down of then top-ranked Notre Dame. The victory snapped a 198-game losing streak by unranked teams against No. 1 teams in the country. In the matchup, Kea had a 30-point, 10-assist game—becoming the fourth Division I player in the last 20 years to do so against the top-ranked team.
Overall, the Blue Devils dominated on the boards, grabbing 42 rebounds to the Tar Heels’ 30. Duke converted 57 percent of its shots from the field and 46 percent from three. They also scored 44 points in the paint compared to North Carolina's 30.
"Rebounding was really important to us," McCallie said. "It's what's interesting too because it was the first time this season we’ve had four people have a 10, seven, eight, seven in terms of rebound productivity and rebound distribution."
Duke came out strong in the first quarter Thursday, getting out to a 5-0 lead thanks to a Gorecki three. Goodchild then hit another to give the Blue Devils the 8-2 advantage.
The Tar Heels (14-10, 5-5 ) fought back hard, equalizing the score at 14-14 after a few transition buckets and a conversion from three. North Carolina began to gain momentum beyond the arc, hitting three in the last two minutes of the quarter. A buzzer beater from the hands of Leah Church gave the Tar Heels the 24-18 advantage going into the second.
Duke started out slow in the second quarter, turning the ball over on the first possession with a shot clock violation. The Blue Devils soon gained momentum, however, as they began to look to the paint. Williams was a major aspect of this success, successfully screening down low for Gorecki in addition to having two buckets in the second herself.
"Jade did a hell of a good job in there so getting her the ball as much as possible was important," Gorecki said. "There were a lot of good opportunities to drive."
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Both teams entered a scoring drought for two minutes in the middle of the second quarter, but Duke surged forward with a 6-0 run to take the 34-29 lead with three minutes left. The Blue Devils sealed the half with four straight converted free throws headed into the locker room with a 40-31 lead. Duke had a 22-7 scoring advantage in the second.
Success from the charity stripe in the third quarter kept the Tar Heels closing in on the Duke lead, as North Carolina converted eight of its 21 points from the free throw line.
Gorecki equalized the free throws with eight points of her own in the third. She finished the game with her seventh double-double of the season, which currently leads the ACC, clocking 28 points and 10 rebounds.
"I think the energy helps. I think the team builds off of it," Gorecki said. "The crowd was huge and us, we had a good section over there...The energy they give to us as well as what we bring to the floor—it helps a lot."
Free throws once again became very important in the fourth quarter, with the Tar Heels converting eight of their nine opportunities. North Carolina used the free throw line to close the margin to a seven-point Blue Devil lead at 65-58 with six minutes left in the game.
Duke had their largest lead of the game, at 13 points, with a little bit more than two minutes left in the game. The Tar Heels responded with a jumper and drew a foul from the 3-point line to close the Blue Devil advantage to 10 points.
Duke then entered a free-throw battle, as North Carolina began to foul with a little less than two minutes left in the fourth. Gorecki hit two to silence the crowd and the Blue Devils maintained momentum to close out the game.
"Haley’s game just keeps going—she’s a very active player and smart player. She takes her time, she draws a lot of defense—a lot of people running at Haley," McCallie said. "It has been tough that way, but she has found a way to rebound and score and do things."
The Blue Devils will hit the road again to take on Virginia in Charlottesville on Sunday at 2 p.m. The Cavaliers are currently tied with Duke in the ACC standings.
"I just think we’re overdue by miles in terms of the season. The adversity we’ve faced, the timing we’ve faced and these players coming together," McCallie said. "Yeah, it’s obviously a great game—in state, our rival. But for us, we have to get better. We just have to keep going and learning how to control games. We got to get better in this game and take it into Sunday."