The contested mid-range shot is widely regarded as the least efficient way of scoring in modern basketball. Yet every once in a while, a killer emerges during crunch time to remind people how lethal this 'obsolete' skill can be.
In a back-and-forth defensive clash, the Blue Devils edged out a tough Virginia Tech team 72-67 in overtime. Duke snapped a five-game losing streak with individual heroics and a tremendous team effort on both ends of the floor in Cameron Indoor Stadium Sunday afternoon. The Blue Devils eventually escaped the cold winter with a much-needed victory.
With seven minutes left in the fourth quarter, the Blue Devils found themselves on the verge of another close-encounter loss, trailing by nine points. In her fourth game back from a year-long injury, redshirt freshman Mikayla Boykin single-handedly took over Duke’s offense in the dwindling minutes of the regulation.
“Thanks to Haley [Gorecki],” Boykin said when asked about her elite performance. “Haley was being guarded really tight, so it was opening [the court] up a lot for other players. I just stepped up and tried to hit big shots, but thanks to my teammates, it was kind of open for me. [I focused on] making the right play down the stretch.”
Boykin first hit a mid-range jumper off a pretty crossover, then followed up with another mid-range shot off a hesitation move. By the time she made her third bucket in a row with a spectacular half-spin jumper, the Hokie lead had been cut to only one. In the final 30 seconds of the game when the Blue Devils (8-8, 2-3 in the ACC) desperately needed a basket to tie the game up, it was Boykin who penetrated the packed defense, carefully drawing the defenders towards her before dishing out a perfect dime to Leaonna Odom for a crucial lay-up that forced the game into overtime.
Boykin would go on to convert another difficult mid-range in the overtime period, as she finished the night with a career-high 14 points. Nevertheless, Boykin’s tremendous individual showcase would not be possible if her teammates didn’t help set up the stage. Jade Williams had a big night with 11 points, seven rebounds, five steals and two blocks. The team recorded an incredible 11 steals, while successfully holding its own turnover number to just 13.
After some early errors that gave the visitors a 6-2 lead two minutes into the game, the Blue Devils demonstrated their determination to clinch the victory at home under the leadership of Gorecki. The graduate guard opened her scoring account with a hard drive to the basket that earned her two shots at the charity stripe. She went on to record six points, two rebounds, two assists, and two steals at the end of the first quarter to give Duke a solid 21-13 lead.
Even though Duke’s leading scorer had an off night, shooting 5-of-13 from the field, Gorecki retained a high-level of focus through 44 minutes of playing time. When the Hokies (12-4, 2-3) opted to foul at the end of the game, Gorecki’s consistent stroke terminated any hope of a comeback. The Palatine, Ill., native notched a 17-point, 12-rebound double-double.
Duke excelled in shooting beyond the arc and controlling the ball, two things the team has struggled with throughout the season. Leading the 3-point shooting attack for the Blue Devils was sophomore sharpshooter Miela Goodchild. After becoming the quickest Duke player to knock down 100 treys against Virginia, the Australian came into the game with a blazing hot hand, knocking down three shots from the perimeter. In addition to her regular production, she converted all three of her free throws to tie the game up at the end of the fourth quarter.
On the opposing end, the duo of Hokie freshman center Elizabeth Kitley and graduate guard Taja Cole posed tremendous threats for this Duke squad all night. Kitley showed off her presence in the paint by scoring a game-high 21 points. Cole led several waves of Hokie pushback and walked out of Cameron with 15 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and four steals.
The Blue Devils will stay at home Thursday to take on the struggling Fighting Irish, hoping to clinch the second conference win in a row.
“It’s about not being satisfied with anything that we’ve done. We played great against Louisville, but we did not bring it to the next game. We’re all in the process of fighting human nature: you do not exhale, and you cannot relax,” head coach Joanne P. McCallie said. “What we have to do is fight it and celebrate the process that we’ve had today. We need to bring it [next Thursday].”
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