In tight matchups, the first few minutes of the second half are pivotal to a team’s chances of victory.
Sunday afternoon, the Wildcats couldn’t seem to miss while Duke saw its shots roll off the rim, a 29-4 Northwestern run in the third quarter making an otherwise close contest become lopsided.
Although the Blue Devils held the Wildcats to just six points in the second quarter, Northwestern’s combined 48-15 advantage in the first and third quarters allowed the Wildcats to pull away in the second half, beating Duke 63-42 at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
“Sometimes things don’t go your way or don’t go exactly as you want them to,” Duke head coach Joanne P. McCallie said. “The resilience you have to have has to be incredibly intense at this level and it wasn’t.”
Northwestern (3-0) jumped out to a strong start in the opening three minutes as the Wildcats scored the first eight points and forced McCallie to use her first timeout early.
Though Duke weathered the storm after that initial Wildcat run, the start of the second half displayed many similarities to the start of the first half. Northwestern once again converted a pair of triples and a basket for an 8-0 run before McCallie called her second timeout. Blue Devil forward Jade Williams made a corner baseline jumper to end the run and bring Duke within eight with 5:28 remaining in the third.
But the Wildcats continued their strong second-half shooting, as the visiting team extended its lead to 19 points as McCallie used her third timeout down 48-29 with under two minutes to go in the third quarter.
At the end of the third quarter, Northwestern led 54-29 on 58.8 percent from the field in the third quarter, while Duke converted only two baskets for a 11.1 percent clip.
“When you go on the road against a team like Duke, a place like Cameron, there’s a lot of things you have to deal with,” Northwestern head coach Joe McKeown said. “I was worried how they were going to start because [Duke’s] capable of going on runs too.”
After that initial Wildcat run in the first quarter, the Blue Devils recovered nicely. The home team cut the deficit to eight at the end of the first quarter, with Williams jumpstarting the offense with four points in the period. Duke started inching back on the defensive end with a blocked shot from sophomore Onome Akinbode-James, which was followed by a Haley Gorecki block and a missed shot from Northwestern. Miela Goodchild then found Odom for the outlet pass near half court, who dropped it off to Gorecki for an easy fast-break shot to pull within four.
In the final minute of the first half, Blue Devil freshman Azana Baines blocked a Northerstern layup on one end and Goodchild drained a corner 3-pointer on the other end to give Duke a two-point lead with 28 seconds to go. Wolf then scored a basket to even the halftime score at 25-all, with the Blue Devils having outscored the Wildcats 18-4 in the final 13 minutes of the half.
Williams led the Blue Devils in scoring with 11 points on 5-for-10 shooting and six rebounds, while Gorecki was second with 10 points, spearheading Duke’s 44-rebound outing with nine of her own. The Palatine, Ill., native also contributed three assists and a pair of blocks.
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Overall, the Blue Devils shot a season-low 28.3 percent from the field, while the Wildcats finished at 39.1 percent and eight 3-pointers. Northwestern’s top scorer was junior Lindsey Pulliam, who scored 26 points on 4-for-7 shooting from beyond the arc.
The Blue Devils will be back in action Thursday against Idaho State, kicking off the rest of the non-conference slate, which includes four more home contests before traveling to Lincoln, Neb., to take on Nebraska as the team’s second Big Ten opponent of the season.
“In our society today, we always run away from maybe the hard thing, the difficult thing, and to me, you’ve got to address what is and learn from it and we will and then of course move on,” McCallie said.