GREENSBORO, N.C.—After an emphatic win against 14th-seeded Pittsburgh Wednesday, Duke headed into Thursday hoping to use its recent momentum for a big upset win.
But the 11th-seeded Blue Devils’ ACC tournament run and 2018-19 season ended in the second round, as the team dropped a tough 51-41 contest to No. 6 seed Florida State at the Greensboro Coliseum, its lowest scoring output of the season. The loss marks the first time Duke has not advanced to the quarterfinals of the ACC tournament since 1993. The Seminoles used a 42-28 rebounding advantage—including 13 offensive boards—to muscle past their counterparts from Durham, led by a 15-point, 12-rebound performance from freshman forward Kiah Gillepsie.
"It was a very poor rebounding night," head coach Joanne P. McCallie said. "It was a blue-collar game. Offense sells tickets—that is what happened last night. Defense and rebounding wins championships, and that is very evident by this game today."
The Blue Devils struggled to reenact their magic from Wednesday night. After shooting 12-of-20 from three against the Panthers, the team hit just 2 of its 12 attempts from downtown Thursday. Guard Miela Goodchild—who led the team with 19 points in the first round, breaking Duke’s freshman 3-point record during the process—was held scoreless on six shot attempts.
With Goodchild struggling, junior forward Leaonna Odom paced the Blue Devils (15-15) offensively. The Lompoc, Calif., native posted 13 points and six rebounds on the night, while Haley Gorecki added a team-high 17 points of her own. Duke also committed only eight turnovers while forcing 15 Florida State giveaways, but it was not enough to pull off the shocker.
"That is a real positive," McCallie said. "That is seven more times took care of that ball. That is what put us in a position to get that game. That is a positive, that is something that we will look at. Imagine having eight in most games—imagine what we could have looked like with eight turnovers in most games. So that is an outstanding stat, and that is something we need to consider, especially since the ball-pressure was pretty significant."
One would think a unit that shot 60 percent from deep in its previous contest would be raining threes early. But the Blue Devils did just the opposite, hoisting only two attempts from beyond the arc in the first quarter—missing both—and constantly pounding the ball inside.
The switch in offensive focus did not work—Duke shot just 31 percent from the field over the initial 10 minutes and trailed 14-10 heading into the second period.
"It was a totally different game," McCallie said "They played a different defense. It was a totally different game. It was not a game for threes—it was a game for driving and getting to the free-throw line and attacking. You have to be able to play any type of game. It would be nice to get some transition threes and make a few but if that is what we are going to hang out hat on—that is going to give you ups and downs."
The Blue Devils forced eight Seminole turnovers in that second-quarter, but it was here that the rebounding truly kept McCallie’s squad from cutting into their deficit. After leading the battle on the boards just 10-8 following the first period, Florida State (23-7) grabbed 12 boards to Duke’s one over the next 10 minutes.
It was the Seminoles’ work on the offensive glass that really prevented the Blue Devils from pulling past their opponents—much to the dismay of McCallie and her staff, who appeared increasingly frustrated on the bench as Duke continued to get out-hustled to every loose ball. Two offensive rebounds from sophomore guard Nausia Woolfolk early in the quarter led to a Gillespie runner that broke a 14-14 tie, and a multi-offensive rebound possession later in the period stretched Florida State’s lead to six, its largest of the half.
Both teams went into the locker rooms with the Seminoles holding a 23-19 edge.
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The Blue Devils did nothing to open up the second half to help their bid for a comeback, failing to score until over three minutes into the third quarter while continuing to to allow Florida State to grab second-chance opportunities. Odom started to singlehandedly will Duke close near the end of the period, but the Seminoles still entered the final ten minutes with a 37-31 advantage.
With Duke certain to be left out of the NCAA tournament and unlikely to accept a bid from the NIT, according to a team spokesman, a loss ended the Blue Devils’ season. Duke headed into that fourth quarter fighting for its life.
Florida State, however, began the period with two easy layups, while the Blue Devils seemed out of sync on the offensive end. Duke tried to fight back, but with every missed shot and turnover it soon became a realization that its season was over, a fitting end for a disappointing first campaign in the post-Splash Sisters era.
"Just bringing my experience and leadership to next year," Gorecki said regarding how she plans to move into the offseason. "I think as the season went on everyone grew as a player and kind of bringing that to next year and the offseason as well. Just getting prepared—as Coach P was saying developing and getting better day by day."