RALEIGH—It was just another Monday in the office for Duke, except this day had a little magic.
The house was packed and the fans were loud, but that didn’t faze the Blue Devils, who picked up their sixth straight win in a heated 70-65 victory against No. 8 NC State in Reynolds Coliseum. It was Duke's first win against a top-10 team since Feb. 19, 2018, and its first road win against a top-10 opponent since Feb. 2, 2015.
“I don’t know if it’s really complicated for us. I mean, we just had to play…. I’m just really proud of the team for the intensity that was shown throughout,” head coach Joanne P. McCallie said. “But I don’t think you’re reacting too much in these games because really you just have to play every possession and hopefully have the attitude of immediacy in every possession.”
Despite the Blue Devils never trailing the entire evening, it was really anyone’s game up until the final moments. Every time Duke stretched the lead, the Wolfpack narrowed it back down again. It wasn’t until the very last few seconds that the visitors could feel comfortable with a secured win.
Throughout the second half, the Blue Devils constantly made plays when called upon to do so. Every time the Wolfpack started to build some momentum, Duke came through with a silencer. Graduate student Haley Gorecki had two stellar and-one plays, the first extending her team's lead to seven with seven minutes left. The second brought even the N.C. State fans to their feet: an off-balance, rim-rattling shot that gave the Blue Devils a 10-point lead with 3:10 remaining.
In an image-defining moments for Duke's season, the visiting squad had it all but locked up in the final minute, until the Wolfpack's Jakia Brown-Turner knocked down a three to bring her team within three points. Enter Gorecki once again. Her dicing drive and finish iced the game and gave her the 21st 20-point game of her career.
Gorecki finished the contest with a game-high 24 points on 8-of-18 shooting from the floor.
The first half was full of fight for the Blue Devils. They raced out of the gates and opened up a quick 7-0 lead, which was quickly erased by N.C. State, thus starting the trend. With the score tied 14-14 at the end of the first quarter, it was apparent what was working for both teams. Duke made good use of the 3-ball, which was a product of great ball movement and floor spacing. On the other side, the Wolfpack were having their way on the interior, just bullying their way through the paint.
The second quarter told the same story. The Blue Devils came out blazing with their key players making key plays. Kyra Lambert hit a timely three midway through the period to put Duke up 25-16 and completely deflate the crowd, while Gorecki dominated like usual. The superstar guard was all over the court, grabbing offensive and defensive rebounds, making big shots, dishing out assists and playing stellar defense. Unfortunately for the Blue Devils, N.C. State continued the narrative of the game and cut Duke's edge to one by halftime.
The Blue Devils flipped the script in the second half behind a strong interior defense, creating a new narrative in the process: strong defense leads to forced turnovers and efficient offense. By game’s end, they had forced 16 turnovers, while only committing eight of their own.
“It’s obviously really nice to see 16 assists and eight turnovers. The ratio, I mean, that’s unbelievable…. That’s how it should be I think,” Gorecki said on how Duke performed so efficiently. “I don’t know, I don’t really have an answer. We were just doing everything right, finding each other really well, putting our players in the right positions.”
Next, the Blue Devils will travel to Blacksburg, Va., to take on Virginia Tech Thursday before finishing up their regular season against North Carolina in Chapel Hill three days later.
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