The Blue Devils, in need of a bounce back victory after a five-game skid, returned home and battled with Virginia Tech in a game that required more than 40 minutes to complete.
In the end, though, Duke walked away victorious due to its strong play on the defensive end. Led by junior Jade Williams and graduate student Haley Gorecki, the Blue Devils’ feisty defense resulted in 11 steals from 18 Virginia Tech turnovers.
Williams notched a career-high five steals and Gorecki contributed three more en route to the victory. The rest of the team added three steals, with sophomore Onome Akinbode-James, redshirt freshman Mikayla Boykin and sophomore Miela Goodchild each with one steal apiece.
“Jade was aggressive,” head coach Joanne P. McCallie said. “She was playing defense and she was moving on defense. I thought she did well today and was doing the hard stuff.”
To open the fourth quarter, Virginia Tech went on a run to surge out to a nine-point lead with seven minutes remaining in the game. After a Duke timeout and a made free throw, the Blue Devils needed to end the run quickly in order to have a chance at a comeback, turning to the stingy defense that had sustained them all game.
“I told them to keep our poise and get stops,” McCallie said. “The important thing was getting out of the timeout and focusing.”
Duke did just that and slowly chipped at the Virginia Tech lead.
After Gorecki contributed a layup to end the run, Boykin knocked the ball away from a Virginia Tech forward on the way up for an easy two. After two misses from long range for the visiting team, Boykin took it upon herself to translate that pressure into offense.
With Duke trailing by just five and the Virginia Tech shot clock down to six seconds, Williams notched a block and passed it to Boykin, who would then make her second shot in a row.
The Blue Devils kept their defensive pressure on the next possession, as Williams picked up another steal as the shot clock expired and a few possessions later, a missed Virginia Tech shot led to a shot clock violation.
“I thought we were tentative. In the beginning, we were attacking. We had a couple instances where we moved the ball around and we got the ball to a decent position and the kid didn’t take the shot,” Virginia Tech head coach Kenny Brooks said. “When they pass up the shot, it put us deeper into the shot clock and forced us to take very bad shots.”
The defensive onslaught continued into overtime. Virginia Tech could not get a clean look at the basket midway through the period, which resulted in a missed three with six seconds and a travel with four seconds remaining on the shot clock. Duke’s suffocating defense helped the team pull away.
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“Our focus was there, so that ramps up everything,” Gorecki said. “This game showed that if we have a little bit more communication, it leads to good things.”
The Blue Devils proved to themselves that if they pressure the ball and remain diligent on the defensive end of the court, they can come away victorious even in the closest of games.