The Blue Devils appeared to have no trouble in paradise Sunday afternoon.
In what was a crucial road ACC matchup, Duke marched into the Watsco Center in Coral Gables, Fla., and parlayed an impressive second quarter into a 74-55 victory against Miami. The Blue Devils impressed with their tenacity and toughness.
"Very blue collar, very well fought, very physical,” head coach Joanne P. McCallie said of the game to GoDuke.com.
With the win being their second in four days, the Blue Devils (13-10, 7-5 in the ACC) appear to be building momentum as ACC play enters the stretch run. Haley Gorecki put up another strong performance with 13 points, 10 rebounds, and seven assists. Duke also benefited from standout contributions by Jade Williams and Mikayla Boykin, who combined for 31 points on 13-for-18 from the field. On the other end of the floor, 20 turnovers by the Hurricanes (12-11, 4-8) showed the chaos that the Blue Devils created defensively.
Offensively, the Blue Devils executed to the letter, especially during a first half that might have been their most consistent display of ball movement during the entirety of conference play. Duke shot 55.6 percent from the floor in the first period, with all but one basket being assisted on in that timeframe. The Blue Devils incorporated a significant amount of high-low action to keep Miami off-balance, resulting in open looks from the outside.
After a somewhat sluggish start in the first few possessions, Duke took the lead for good on a Kyra Lambert three pointer, and a 9-0 run later on the quarter pushed the early Blue Devil to ten. However, Miami clawed back, with a 10-3 run of their own chipping away at Duke’s early lead. Once the clock dipped under seven minutes in the second period, the Blue Devils began to control the pace and flow of the contest by running through an entire set and exploring each option on every possession.
Kyra Lambert was an effective floor general, navigating Miami’s combination of man and 2-3 zone defenses. Williams did an exemplary job of distributing out of the high post against the 2-3, as the Hurricanes tended to pack the paint as Duke continued to work the ball inside.
An efficient first half was capped off with Williams banking in a running 3-pointer at the buzzer, with the junior forward seemingly heading into the locker room in the same stride with which she took that miraculous bank shot. Wrapping up the first half in style was a fitting end to one of the most clinical twenty minutes of basketball that Duke has played all season.
Coming out of the locker room, the Blue Devils were forced to respond to a predictable rally from the hosts. However, right when it appeared that Miami would make the game competitive, Duke ended the quarter with eight unanswered to virtually shut the door on any sort of Miami miracle. Leaonna Odom finally made an impact at this time, putting her athleticism and unique offensive arsenal on display. With both the second and third quarters defined by runs by both sides, the ability of the Blue Devils to stay the course and maintain consistent energy at both ends of the floor stood out.
“I think we had to just take a breather for a second, we didn’t come out quite as well as we wanted to initially, but that was changed quickly. That’s a credit to the team, [being able to] refocus, come back out, execute, and also handling different defenses being thrown at us,” McCallie said regarding the third quarter to GoDuke.com.
For the entire game, the Blue Devils held the Hurricanes to just 34.5 percent from the floor and outrebounded Miami 37-31. One issue that plagued Duke throughout the matchup was turning the ball over, with 17 giveaways allowing Miami to initiate fast breaks. However, the Blue Devils were able to maintain and stretch their lead each time Miami sent out full-court pressure. This is a testament to Lambert and Boykin’s ability to stay patient, as both players often utilized deceptive ball fakes while advancing it up the court.
With the win over Miami being the Blue Devils’ sixth in the last eight games, it is clear that a healthy roster and long-awaited chemistry have paid off for Duke.
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“Kyra’s back full, Mikayla’s back full, and that’s a difference from being half back. So, our point guard is really shored up, we’ve got great leadership from our seniors, particularly Kyra and Haley,” McCallie stressed to GoDuke.com.
The road win may prove to be a major resume boost come Selection Sunday, as Duke is currently projected as one of the first four teams out of the tournament according to ESPN. Next up for the Blue Devils is another road matchup with Pittsburgh on Thursday. With the Panthers boosting a putrid 4-18 record, it will present another opportunity for Duke to take advantage of a softer schedule in the coming weeks.