After losing four games in a row, including a heartbreaker against No.7 Louisville, Duke was in desperate need of a win.
The Blue Devils were in prime position to get just that against a struggling Virginia team in John Paul Jones Arena, but at the end of the night, it was the Cavaliers that broke their own losing streak with a 66-63 win, sending Duke back home from Charlottesville, Va., searching for answers.
“Loved how we battled back,” head coach Joanne P. McCallie told GoDuke.com. “I thought we had a slow start, turned the ball over, weren’t as focused as we needed to be. Then became very focused and made some great runs...It turned out to be a game of runs at the end. It is a game of runs and you have to be able to control them to finish.”
Duke (7-8, 1-3 in the ACC) looked to reestablish their dominance, but Virginia (6-9, 1-3) was the more resilient team. With a little over three minutes to go in the ballgame, Duke was up eight, and just needed to hold off a run by the Cavaliers until the final buzzer sounded.
However, Virginia had other ideas and went on a 12-0 run to pull ahead, capturing a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. The Blue Devils came within one after a Mikayla Boykin 3-pointer, but time ran out on the game, and time is quickly running out on the Blue Devils' postseason hopes unless they’re able to break out of this slump.
It was a messy game from start to finish, with both teams committing an astounding amount of turnovers—28 for the Blue Devils and 23 for the Cavaliers. In the first quarter, both teams took turns turning over the ball and it took nearly four minutes for the first field goal of the matchup. From there, Virginia broke out to an early lead that they held until the half.
The third quarter was all Duke, with Haley Gorecki leading the charge behind her 3-point sharpshooting, something the Blue Devils have sorely missed the past few games. Gorecki outscored the Cavaliers in the third with 14 points and had 24 points so far in the game, half of Duke’s total at the beginning of the fourth.
“I loved the intensity,” McCallie told GoDuke.com. “I thought we were immediate on defense and I thought we were pretty smart on offense. A lot of finding each other. It was excellent and you can’t get too high or too low because there’s a lot more basketball to be played.”
In the fourth quarter, though, Gorecki disappeared after a defensive switch by the Cavaliers, only mustering three more points the rest of the evening. The Blue Devil offense. which had become so hot so quickly, fizzled out just as quickly, and Virginia saw their chance and made the most of it, winning their second in a row against Duke.
The Blue Devils may be desperate for a win, but it wasn’t all bad news against Virginia. After a series of poor outside shooting games, Duke shot nearly 50 percent from beyond the arc in this one, including a pair of threes from Miela Goodchild that brought her to 100 in her career, making her the fastest to 100 threes in Duke history. Leaonna Odom, who is coming back from an injury and had her minutes limited in the last game, put together a solid performance, going 5-of-9 from the field for 12 points and three blocks.
“It’s excellent (the improved three-point shooting),” McCallie told GoDuke.com. “To be able to get everyone going to their game. Their were some nice looks involved that created those threes.”
It’ll be a quick turnaround for the Blue Devils, as they return home to Cameron Indoor Stadium to face the Cavaliers’ in-state rival, Virginia Tech, Sunday at 3 p.m. If the Blue Devils want a chance at knocking off the 12-3 Hokies, they’ll have to cut down on the turnovers and continue to stay hot from beyond the arc, making sure to get Gorecki the ball as much as possible.
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