In their first game action in a Blue Devil uniform, the newest additions to the Duke roster turned heads.
Despite a formidable effort from Alaska Anchorage, Duke walked away with a commanding 91-59 victory in the Sunday afternoon exhibition. Although the usual suspects, Haley Gorecki and Leaonna Odom, shined, it was the performances of newcomers like Jada Claude and Jaida Patrick that stood out the most, with Claude notching a double-double and Patrick putting together a great all-around effort.
“I haven’t had a first-year get a double-double in any exhibition," Blue Devils head coach Joanne P. McCallie said of Claude. "I’ve been doing this a long time. That was a very, very strong performance regardless of who you’re playing.”
The young Blue Devils wasted no time in showing that they intend to contribute to punching this team a ticket to the NCAA tournament. Despite being one of the lower-ranked recruits of this 2019 class, Claude played with the grit and tenacity that the coaching staff emphasized during the offseason.
Although there was some speculation as to where she was going to play in this guard-heavy roster, Claude found her spot at the small forward position, posting up and grabbing rebounds for the whole game. Claude appeared comfortable in her role, finishing the game with 14 points and 12 rebounds in only 19 minutes of playing time.
To complement her impressive box score, Claude showcased her high basketball IQ throughout the afternoon. She read the eyes of an Alaska Anchorage player to pick off an inside pass in the first half, in addition to often putting herself in a superior rebounding position before the shots even touched the rim.
Her fellow freshman, Patrick, came out blazing in the second half. To start the third quarter, she picked up a steal to ignite Duke’s offense that came out of the locker room flat.
Gorecki had words of praise for the young guard.
“[Patrick] in general for the top of our zone is really great, she always has her hands up, talking all the time.”
On the other side of the court, Patrick made a crucial hustle play to save the ball and set up a Gorecki three. Patrick was cutting nonstop all over the floor, appearing to have as much stamina as the Energizer Bunny, creating offense for the Blue Devils.
“She offers a great deal with her intensity,” said McCallie. “Jaida Patrick is going to apply ball pressure and give us great things.”
Though her relative immaturity showed on her five turnovers, Patrick made her minutes count and will clearly be important to this Duke team for the whole season.
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Patrick and her teammates were relentless defensively, as defenders picked up the ball handler as soon as she crossed half court from the opening whistle.
“The energy provided and ball pressure and talking, especially in effective switching, are things that we are trying to get done,” said McCallie. “Overall, there were a few lulls there but not too many, just good intensity, good immediacy, good playing off each other.”
Though the Seawolves' 59 points may appear to diminish the Duke defensive performance, the underlying stats tell the true story. Alaska Anchorage shot 27.4 percent on the night, with the majority of its baskets being a result of 3-pointers in its fast-paced, run-and-gun offense.
With a reinvigorated, defense-first mindset and the fire of the freshman, Duke looks to be on track to rebound from its NCAA tournament-less 2018-19 season.