The Blue Devils are rolling right now.
With Sunday’s victory against Florida State in Cameron Indoor Stadium, they extend their winning streak to four and are also winners of eight of their last 10. Duke has overcome hurdle after hurdle in the last three weeks in order to leap to third in the ACC standings.
This Duke team is in no way the same team they were in December and early January, when it lost five straight. It has been a complete turnaround for a squad that looked to be completely lost just weeks ago.
“What’s made it great is this team has been in the tunnel and totally focusing on the game in front of us, and everybody, they have come collectively together to play,” head coach Joanne P. McCallie said. “That’s part of our thing right now, it’s us focusing on us and anything can happen, and that’s exactly the position we want to put ourselves in.”
The victory Sunday was the icing on the cake for how sweet of a ride back it has been for Duke. In one of their toughest challenges of the season, Duke came out on top in a thriller that came down to the last shot. The game was not pretty, but it was certainly a scrappy, get-your-hands-dirty kind of game, which has become Duke’s identity of late.
The Blue Devils had to play with a thin bench and ended up only using a six-person rotation, which only made this even more of a challenge. Mikayla Boykin, who has been dealing with a nagging injury, pulled herself from the contest during warmups. Additionally, guard Kyra Lambert had a nasty collision with a teammate on a loose-ball play driving her out of the game and into the locker room. This forced both Leaonna Odom and Haley Gorecki to step up and play the full 40 minutes. That didn’t shake the energy of the team, though.
“Honestly, I didn’t know I played all 40 minutes until you just said something, it just was in the flow of the game. That’s not something you think about, you want to play as a player, and if you have to stay out there longer, then kudos, that’s fine. It’s fun, so it’s about trying to have fun,” Odom added when asked about the added playtime.
Gorecki struggled from the field, shooting just 3-of-14. But she found other ways to contribute—constantly attacking the rim, she shot 14-16 from the line and added some stellar defense down the stretch. The graduate player was the primary on-ball defender for the final two plays that won Duke the game.
This rejuvenating game has put the Blue Devils back into the NCAA tournament conversation and even made a spot in the AP Top 25 a possibility. With four games left in the regular season, this Duke team is getting hot at the right time and come ACC tournament, they will have a statement to make, hoping to put the nation on notice.
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