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Duke women's basketball falls to No. 6 Texas A&M due to poor second half

The Blue Devils fell by 21 points To Texas A&M, though the first half was encouraging for Duke.
The Blue Devils fell by 21 points To Texas A&M, though the first half was encouraging for Duke.

COLLEGE STATION, Texas—The first twenty minutes of Sunday afternoon's game hid the fact that Duke is unranked and Texas A&M is No. 6 in the country. The last twenty underscored it.

The Blue Devils dropped their first road game of the season to the Aggies 79-58 at Reed Arena. After shooting well and containing Texas A&M for much of the first half, Duke was outscored 46-28 in the second half, getting thoroughly out-rebounded and never finding an answer for star Aggie point guard Chennedy Carter.

"There was nobody really on our [team] that has the rebounding capability that they do," said Blue Devil head coach Joanne P. McCallie. "Obviously, they have some size, and they really ran after the ball…[giving up] 15 offensive boards to any team is going to be costly."

The first quarter foreshadowed the game well, as Duke (1-1) actually shot much more effectively than the Aggies, but shot less. Texas A&M (2-0) shot eight more field goals in that period, fueling a six-point lead. Rebounding was the real key to that discrepancy, with the Blue Devils allowing five second-chance points while being out-rebounded. 

With starters Haley Gorecki and Jade Williams struggling, McCallie opted to use her bench more in the second quarter. Azana Baines and Jada Claude each played more than half of that period, most notably as part of a small-ball lineup featuring either that pair or Claude and Kyra Lambert, alongside Gorecki, Miela Goodchild and Leaonna Odom. That helped lead to a solid run for Duke, during which it tied the game on two separate occasions.

After a couple of hard-fought possessions before halftime, Carter pulled up limping near the sideline as the buzzer sounded. With the Blue Devils down just three points, it seemed that they might have a fighting chance in the second half.

Not quite.

Duke came out of the locker room shooting especially poorly, and Texas A&M made sure to take advantage. A three-point gap turned into 14 by the end of the third quarter. The Blue Devils never looked right in that span, with Odom and Claude combining to go 0-for-7 with two turnovers in their combined 12 third-quarter minutes. One of the lone bright spots for the Blue Devils was Baines, who played well in the quarter and finished with 12 points on 44 percent shooting, in addition to five rebounds on the second-most minutes of any Blue Devil.

"[Baines has] been doing great, in practice, whatever the situation, she's just been coming on very strong," said McCallie. "I think there's some great things that [Baines] did, in terms of her attack."

Baines’ defense looked especially improved as compared to her time in high school and during Duke’s exhibition games. She collected a block and a steal while keeping tight to her assignment, showcasing potential beyond pure shooting.

"I just like attacking and finding the open shot," said Baines. "And looking for my teammates, trying to get them open as much as I can."

Baines’s defense, however, did not come when it was most needed. Carter paced the Aggies with seven points on 3-for-6 shooting during the decisive third quarter, and finished with 25 points on 44 percent shooting. She proved too fast for Odom and too good a pure shooter for Goodchild, who were beaten nearly every-which-way. Even when they were able to hold up against Carter, the Blue Devils’ 3-2 zone defense continually sagged off the backside shooter. Passes to that player weren’t always easy buckets thanks to Duke’s lateral quickness, but resulted in too many easy threes for a Texas A&M team that struggled to find consistent shooting until the second half.

"[Texas A&M guard Kyla Wells] is a very good 3 point shooter, and her non-threes were were effective [too]," said McCallie.

The Blue Devils will travel to Nevada to finish up their short road trip Thursday, taking on UNLV.

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