Quick tempo, an abundance of cuts and not much standing around at the top of the arc.
Those were the clear features of Duke’s offense at the Blue-White intersquad scrimmage on Sunday. The White team beat the Blue team 89-71, in an exhibition with the first half featuring the starters against the bench and the second half was the full team against the practice players. The starters showed off their chemistry and summer development throughout the game, but the team’s style was most clearly on display.
"We ran all this stuff last year, [but] without some of the playmaking, it was much more difficult to accomplish," said head coach Joanne P. McCallie. "Obviously [now] we've got a lot more people that can handle the ball. So, I think you're seeing a benefit from last year. It's a different group of talent on the floor, and it's what we do with it."
For a team still lacking a true point guard, a fast-paced offense will allow the Blue Devils to maximize their talents and hide their weaknesses. The quicker Duke plays and the more it passes, the less often it has to run sets and the less often it has to keep Leaonna Odom at the top of the key. Granted, Odom looked more comfortable running point today than she did last year and has clearly grown more into the role., but her talents are still maximized as a more traditional three who can moonlight as a point forward.
So for Odom—who’s talented at passing, driving and pulling up—Haley Gorecki—who is an excellent driver and flashed some skillful passing—and Miela Goodchild—who shows signs of developing into a primary ball-handler—maximizing the time they spend moving with the ball and minimizing the time they spend standing still is key. That’s how the trio combined for nine assists and five 3-pointers.
"Miela [Goodchild]'s a complete player," said McCallie, when asked about her development. "She knows the game, she looked at her weaknesses, in terms of the whole game. Obviously, she can shoot probably with her eyes closed, [but improving at] the mid-range game, creating opportunities, better defense, also running the point—she could not run the point last year—she picked up and did a little bit of that for us."
Moving the ball quickly doesn’t just benefit the ball-handlers. Jada Williams and Onome Akinbode-James, the team’s starting bigs, combined for 29 points.
"I think our drives really initiated all of that," said Williams. "Specifically for Haley [Gorecki], I just know, when she starts driving to the paint, to start getting ready for the roll. I thought a lot of my points came from that, just [her] drawing two defenders and kicking out to one."
Getting those points from Williams and Akindobe-James will be crucial during close games. Especially since they’re clearly the most talented players at getting points in the paint, a skill that Coach McCallie prioritizes.
"We got a lot of shooters. [But] we're not going to win on jump shots. You don't win games on just shooting from the perimeter…on a normal basis, the paint points will tell you who wins."
Interior scoring and perimeter shooting were both on display throughout the game, however. Late in the fourth quarter, the White team was up 10 and looking to slam the door. The ball was inbounded to Odom at the extended free-throw line. She drove in, went behind her back and pulled up for a perfect riser. Next possession, she passed the ball to a big in the paint, who didn't have a shot and kicked it out to Goodchild, who drained a spot-up three. The following possession, Gorecki zipped a pass to Williams under the basket, who went around her defender and rolled in a perfect bucket.
Just like that, the lead was extended to 80-63 and the game was iced.
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Pace doesn't come without drawbacks, however. Turnovers can be hard to avoid. Coach McCallie made clear her unhappiness with the White team's 26 turnovers, and that if the Blue Devils are going to reach their ceiling on offense, they're going to have to get cleaner.