GREENSBORO, N.C.—There is nothing more anyone could ask for in an ACC tournament game.
The third-seeded Blue Devils hopped on I-85 to head to the Greensboro Coliseum and take on No. 6 seed Boston College Friday night. In a true heavyweight battle, both sides exchanged blows the entire game, but Duke fell 84-77 to Boston College to end its ACC tournament run on the same day it began.
“You got to play the full 40 minutes and there were plays to finish and rebounds to get and the ball to take care of so we didn’t finish down the stretch,” said head coach Joanne P. McCallie.
With 5:57 minutes left in the contest, it looked like Duke (18-12) had put the Eagles (20-11) to bed, up by seven. Thanks to knockdown shooting and Emma Guy and Taylor Soule's dominance, the Blue Devils were down by two with 75 seconds remaining. Although they fought for 40 minutes of physical basketball, it was not enough.
Duke was down by three at the start of the fourth quarter and it appeared bleak for Duke. But Haley Gorecki found an open Kyra Lambert to sink a contested three and even up the contest. Soon after, Gorecki took over with a Mamba-like intensity, hitting a triple and following it up with an and-one to put Duke up by seven.
The Eagles’ 60 percent clip on 3-pointers and Duke’s failure to score in the last five minutes of the game proved to be the nails in the Blue Devils’ coffin.
“We needed to do just an overall better job of ball pressure, anticipation, taking away passing angles. Again, you let any team score 84 points, you’re leaving it to chance,” said McCallie.
One of the biggest critiques of Leaonna Odom has been her reluctance to shoot the pull up jumper. From the opening tip, the Blue Devil forward showed no hesitation to pull the trigger, resulting in quality looks for her teammates in addition to her 22 points.
“I don’t think any of that matters. We didn’t get the defensive stops and therefore we are not continuing on to the next game,” said Odom.
Early on, it was clear that Duke planned to turn to Gorecki to get its offense going. Despite this being a recipe that has often panned out in Duke’s favor this year, it did not look like it would bear fruit tonight. The Eagles showed they had no intentions of letting Gorecki score from the floor, fouling her hard whenever she stepped foot in the paint.
Gorecki heated up at the end of the third quarter, seemingly forgetting about her earlier blemishes and delivering for her teammates. She continually got walloped by Eagle defenders in the lane, yet she showed no signs of fatigue. Her efforts at the end of the third quarter brought Duke within three points heading into the final frame.
The unsung hero of the night was undoubtedly Kyra Lambert. Her box score is nothing special, yet she provided an imminent spark all night long, pulling her team back from some dark places and making it close to the end.
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After a promising run late in the season, Duke will have to wait and see what seed it will get for the NCAA tournament in a couple weeks. As it has been made obvious this season, anything—whether good or bad— is possible for this squad depending on the day of the week, so there is nothing left to do for the team but to wait and see.