SOUTH BEND, Ind.—Entering the home court of the reigning national champions, the Blue Devils needed a perfect game and a little bit of Irish luck.
Duke benefitted from neither as the Blue Devils dropped their 15th straight contest to the Fighting Irish, losing 89-61 at Purcell Pavilion in South Bend, Ind. Thursday night. Leading scorer Haley Gorecki struggled early in the game, scoring only three points in the first half, and finished with only six. Notre Dame dominated in all categories, having three players in double-digits at the half and three with 20-plus points at the end of the game. The Irish outscored Duke 58-20 in the paint.
“Obviously we did not handle the interior very well,” head coach Joanne P. McCallie said. “Notre Dame has tremendous post players...and that hurt us a great deal because we’re not very deep in the post—certainly not this year. So we had some real trouble in the inside there.”
Though the Blue Devils were dominated in the paint, Duke (11-14, 3-10) excelled beyond the arc, converting 50 percent of its attempts on the back of a 57 percent clip from Freshman Miela Goodchild. Goodchild finished with a career-high 26 points and also set a freshman record for the Blue Devils, hitting eight treys in the matchup.
“To start, I hit a few open threes and they started to defend me,” Goodchild said. “I had [Arike Ogunbowale] on me, tight defense but kudos to my teammates for setting good screens—like Jade...when they seemed to switch, Haley [Gorecki] hit the three or Jayda [Adams] so yeah, it was really a team play. Everyone doing their role.”
Duke’s scoring was supplemented by junior Leaonna Odom, who finished with 12 points—the majority of which came in the first half when the Blue Devils were struggling to hit shots. Odom also grabbed a team-high seven rebounds in the contest.
The first quarter started out well for Duke, as the Irish struggled to offensively. The Blue Devils kept Notre Dame (25-3, 12-2) close thanks to several baskets by Odom and one by Gorecki beyond the arc.
Duke quickly began to lose steam, however, as the Irish switched into a 2-2-1 press on misses. The extra pressure on the Blue Devil guards led to sloppy passing, even from the likes of veteran Gorecki. Gorecki and Goodchild combined for five turnovers in the first quarter. Duke coughed up 21 turnovers to Notre Dame’s 13, giving the Irish a total of 29 points off turnovers.
The Blue Devils did not score for more than two minutes after the press was implemented and Notre Dame went on a 9-0 run to turn a 12-9 lead to a 21-9 mark.
The Irish also gained momentum due to several Duke fouls under the basket, giving the Notre Dame an opportunity to shoot free-throws and convert the and-ones. Overall, seven of the Irish’s eight scores in the first eight minutes of the game were second-chance opportunities.
“Second chance, 30-7, I mean that’s the game,” McCallie said. “Putting bodies on people. We got too far under. Jade got in foul trouble, so that was also a big problem for us.”
Entering the second quarter with a 27-15 deficit, the Blue Devils needed to establish offensive rhythm and find a solution for Notre Dame’s success in the paint. Duke went shot-for-shot with the Irish, pulling it to an eleven point Notre Dame lead on the backs of several second-chance opportunities.
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The Irish responded with five minutes left in the third and went on a 14-0 run to end the half, including a buzzer-beating and-one converted by Notre Dame’s Arike Ogunbowale. Ogunbowale scored 25 points on the way to becoming the Irish’s all-time scoring leader with 2,358 points on her career.
“When Notre Dame plays like this, that’s a cut above...since they lost to Miami, they’ve been a different team in my opinion,” McCallie said. “They really have gone back to basics in utilizing all of the strengths that they have...they are dominant at a very critical time to be, at the end of February.”
The third quarter began with three buckets from the Irish in the paint. The Blue Devils responded with four-straight three point conversions, one off the hands of Gorecki and three from those of Goodchild.
“Guard rebounding wise, we really had to get some guards to rebound from the defensive board players,” McCallie said. “We have to have more rebounds than 25 rebounds. We have to go get that ball while it’s being kicked around.”
Williams also added a bucket herself in the paint, but picked up her fourth foul of the contest with about 20 seconds left in the third—severely restricting Duke’s ability to maintain ground in the paint.
The fourth quarter was similarly dominant from Notre Dame, garnering a game-high 31-point lead with a little less than five minutes left in the game. Goodchild hit another three with thirty seconds left but it was not enough for the Blue Devils.
“I’m proud of my team. I’m proud of what we’re going through, what we’re fighting and what we’re doing,” McCallie said. “I thought Miela showed incredible character, playing against a team who was trying to hunt her defensively with different defenders but Miela kept finding a way to be out there and be attacking. I think obviously it was interior, paint points and rebounding and that’s too bad for us but we will take it to next.”
Duke will hit the road again on Sunday to take on in-state rival Wake Forest at 2 p.m.