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Duke women’s basketball to welcome tough Georgia Tech to Durham

Can Leaonna Odom and the Blue Devils hold off the Yellow Jackets Sunday?
Can Leaonna Odom and the Blue Devils hold off the Yellow Jackets Sunday?

Similar to a ping pong game, it appears as though Duke goes back and forth between struggle and prosperity every week during ACC play. 

With Georgia Tech rolling into Cameron Indoor Stadium Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m., the Blue Devils have an opportunity to gain a quality conference victory. With the drubbing of Syracuse in the Carrier Dome in the rearview mirror, Duke must now focus its attention on the Yellow Jackets, who are known for a tenacious play on the defensive end. A stout defense and a balanced offensive arsenal will pose a stern challenge for the Blue Devils. Here are a few things to get you ready for Sunday’s matchup.

Tough sledding for Duke offensively?

Georgia Tech (14-5, 5-3 in the ACC) boasts the second-best scoring defense in the nation at 50.1 points per game allowed, which is a major reason why the Yellow Jackets are 33rd nationally in average margin of victory. The team fares very well at defending the pick-and-roll, and its perimeter defenders communicate effectively in order to ensure the proper switches take place. On dribble handoffs, Georgia Tech has whoever is defending the guard involved roll their coverage over, which disrupts the rhythm of the sequence. 

When the Yellow Jackets put pressure on opposing ball handlers and interrupt the flow of the offense, they can jumpstart their own transition game. Dictating the tempo through defensive strategy will create a sense of urgency for the Blue Devils (10-9, 4-4), meaning they must go through their offensive sets with precision and incorporate fast breaks when the Yellow Jackets’ half-court defense is too suffocating. Miela Goodchild may have to provide a spark from long range, as Georgia Tech’s intense pressure style will hinder Duke’s ability to get into the lane. Kyra Lambert may also be relied upon as a change-of-pace guard that can speed up the action. As a whole, Georgia Tech’s defense is as connected and consistent as any in the country.

Motion, motion

On the opposite end of the floor, Georgia Tech runs a motion-heavy offense through the high post that is built around screens and cuts. With significant off-ball movement assisted by pin downs, the Yellow Jackets create open looks from both wings.  Senior guard Francesca Pan often utilizes her size to shield a defender on a dribble handoff, which sets everything else in motion. Once that defender is virtually out of the play, the passing lanes for any ball handler (oftentimes junior guard Kierra Fletcher) are wide open. 

When the play breaks down, the Yellow Jackets also have a variety of players who can simply find a spot on the floor and create space themselves for an efficient look. Sophomore guard Lotta-Maj Lahtinen is an effective three-point shooter at 32.9 percent, and her ability to score off the bounce is crucial. Lahtinen also gets her hands in the passing lanes, providing a needed scoring punch on the break. 

Junior forward Lorela Cubaj is another player who utilizes her height to elevate over smaller defenders in the low and high post. Georgia Tech stays true to the principles of conventional motion offense, but they have players with unique size and abilities who can facilitate scoring in multiple fashions.

The inconsistent nature of the Blue Devils this season can be explained by looking at how they have fared against different levels of defense. Against teams like Texas A&M, Florida Gulf Coast and Louisville, Duke had a propensity for turnovers against stingy pressure, putting the Blue Devils behind the eight ball. With a well-coached Georgia Tech looking to make some noise at the top of the ACC standings, Duke must come prepared if it wishes to pick up what would be a marquee conference victory. 

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