It looked like it was going to be a true underdog story Sunday afternoon.
The Blue Devils knew coming into the contest that they would need to play a nearly perfect game if they wanted to knock off No. 7 Louisville at the KFC Yum! Center. Duke came out guns ablazing, jumping out to a 13 point lead in the first quarter behind 10 points and two assists by Haley Gorecki. Despite its valiant effort, Duke was unable to pull out the upset and fell to Louisville 60-55, as the Cardinals bottled up Gorecki and got their offense rolling.
“I am very pleased with my team’s fight...I am very proud of our team. We can be a very, very, very good team,” head coach Joanne P. McCallie told GoDuke.com. “We have to play more like that all the way around and do a little bit better job in the second half executing.”
The Blue Devils (7-7, 1-2 in the ACC) are facing a legitimate problem on the offensive end of the court. Outside of Gorecki, they struggle mightily with finding someone who can score consistently. Heading into the season, Leaonna Odom and Miela Goodchild were expected to be those scorers, but lately that has not been the case.
Odom had been out the past two games and was limited against Louisville (14-1, 3-0) due to her Achilles injury, which has limited her offensive production. Goodchild, who typically is a lights-out shooter from beyond the arc, has been on an icy cold streak in her past four games.
“It’s a lot of fun bringing [Leaonna Odom and Mikayla Boykin] back...We will keep evolving as we go because it is exciting to add players,” McCallie told GoDuke.com. “And it is also a challenge too as we fold people in and bring the best out of what they can do. We’re very excited about it.”
Cardinal Jazmine Jones kept her squad afloat in the first half, scoring its first ten points, and ending the day with 26 total. Duke simply did not have enough offense to put away Louisville, resulting in the near disappearance of ACC leading scorer Dana Evans for nearly three quarters. The Cardinals remained in striking distance all game, and when the inevitable Evans 3-point attack got going, it was over for the Blue Devils.
Evans hit two huge fourth-quarter threes, one a lead-changing bucket and another that iced the game with 36 seconds left.
Before Evans heated up, it was a gradual downhill road for Duke. It had 14 turnovers and shot an abysmal 18.8 percent from deep. The Blue Devils' sets that worked so well early stopped being executed properly, and Louisville found new ways to create open shots in Duke’s zone defense. Everything that started out so promising for the Blue Devils went out the window as the game progressed.
There was one bright light for Duke. Azana Baines got the start for just her second time this season and rewarded Coach McCallie with 15 points and a team-high seven rebounds. It will be huge for the Blue Devils for her to further develop as a scorer if Odom and Goodchild continue to be unable to produce offensively.
Despite the final outcome of this game, the Blue Devils have shown that they can play with the best. When their scorers return to form and they get healthy, this Duke team could very well be a threat to the rest of the ACC.
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