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Duke women's basketball powered by 'outstanding' team defense in win

<p>Leaonna Odom picked up a block and five steals Thursday night.</p>

Leaonna Odom picked up a block and five steals Thursday night.

The Blue Devils dominated Thursday night in their 15-point victory against Virginia, but the team took on a different identity in Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Instead of the typical ‘Haley Gorecki Show’, Duke came out firing from every position and ensured this would be a team effort. A number of factors played into this, but it was the defense that especially stood out, as the Blue Devils picked up 15 steals and 10 blocks in a dominant effort. 

“Outstanding defense. Our defense was outstanding. We did lots of things that caused trouble and made things uncomfortable,” head coach Joanne P. McCallie commented on their defensive standards. “Again, they shot 32 percent from the floor, so that was outstanding, and we stayed steady at about 46 percent. That’s a key to their team.”

The entire Blue Devil team played aggressive from the get-go and maintained high ball pressure the entire contest. It was a scrappy game, but Duke used that to its advantage by forcing 21 UVA turnovers. Strong defense became transition offense and easy buckets for the Blue Devils. Five players recorded at least two steals, led by Leaonna Odom, who grabbed five. 

Without taking anything away from Gorecki, it was a down game for the graudate student by her lofty standards. She started strong, but struggled to keep up the pace of play, turning over the ball a team-high six times and shooting 3-of-12 from the field. 

Her teammates stepped up in big ways, though, especially Mikayla Boykin. The redshirt sophomore came off the bench after sitting out last game due to injury and energized the team. She dropped all six of her points in the fourth quarter and tacked on two steals and a team-high five assists. One of her assists was a beautiful transition alley-oop to Odom, which fired up the Cameron crowd. 

“Me and Mikayla (Boykin) have really good chemistry when it comes to the lobs. She knows if I’m going down towards the rim just throw it up and it’s something that we all work on: just throwing the ball up,” Odom added. “I don’t think a lot of people can jump with me so therefore you can throw it up as high as you can do it and I’ll go get it. Hopefully just not like Lebron [James] height. I won’t be able to get that.”

The chemistry was certainly all there tonight. Although turnovers were a problem for the Blue Devils themselves, they effectively found ways to not get rattled and step up their defensive game when it was called for. 

The Blue Devils picked up their fifth straight win, moving to 16-10 on the season, but arguably their most defining moment will come on Monday when they face off against No. 10 N.C. State in PNC Arena. The Wolfpack will undoubtably provide a major challenge, but Duke is coming in blazing hot and might prove itself to be an unstoppable force. As the Blue Devils make a run at an NCAA tournament spot, ranked wins like this become especially valuable and can make or break the season. 


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