It seems like Duke has flipped the switch in recent weeks.
The Blue Devils barely resemble the team that lost five consecutive games from mid-December into January. Ball movement has defined Duke offensively during its current four-game winning streak, and the Blue Devils have significantly increased their chances of qualifying for the NCAA tournament.
One major explanation for the impressive Duke turnaround is the all-around performances of Haley Gorecki and Leaonna Odom. Both players clearly always had the talent to succeed, but their individual basketball IQs have truly stood out in the past four victories, choosing their spots to be aggressive and setting up teammates for open looks.
Gorecki and Odom have maximized their high usage rates by stuffing the stat sheet and finding versatile ways to put pressure on perimeter defenses. However, the credit must also go to the entire roster for becoming a more cohesive unit. Here's a breakdown of the areas that Duke has succeeded in recently.
Pace and space
To any offensive structure, spacing and screening is key, and that applies to the Blue Devils' various sets. Gorecki thrives with significant room to operate, and with everyone filling their proper lanes in transition, the talented graduate student can take advantage of mismatches and attack the rim. Having a spot-up shooter in each corner opens up the lane for those willing to take their defender off the dribble.
From there, ball-handling and body control takes over, which Gorecki thrives at. In the clip below, Gorecki’s in-and-out dribble puts the North Carolina help defender on her heels, and the wide-open lane created by exemplary spacing leaves no secondary help defenders.
Gorecki and Odom are playing in sync during this winning streak. With their two primary playmakers seemingly knowing where the other will be at all times, the Blue Devils are playing efficient and unselfish basketball. Odom especially presents severe matchup issues for a defense with her improved movement off the ball, as her quickness and size makes her the perfect hybrid forward from in modern college basketball.
With Gorecki embracing her role as a facilitator, overloads to one side of the floor and cuts to the weak spots of the interior defense have given her the chance to show the ability to deliver an accurate skip pass, setting up a simple drive to the basket. Odom’s quickness off the ball and her increased aggressiveness in this current stretch makes her the ideal candidate to slash to daylight and make out-of-position teams pay dearly. The rhythm present between Gorecki and Odom permeates throughout the team, as Duke has seen its assist totals rise dramatically in the past few outings. This pleases a coaching staff that is always emphasizing team basketball and connectivity.
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What does the future hold for these Blue Devils?
If they can keep this execution up, the Blue Devils could make a run in the ACC tournament and do some damage come NCAA tournament. With its two most effective playmakers playing smart, unselfish, and aggressive basketball, Duke has been a case study in what happens when talented rosters finally put it all together at a necessary point in the season.