CHAPEL HILL—Duke fought hard early in its regular season finale against North Carolina, and graduate student Haley Gorecki made sure that her last regular season game against the Tobacco Road rivals ended in a sweet victory.
The Blue Devils hit the road to Carmichael Arena, looking to build off their 10-point home win against the Tar Heels last month. Duke did just that en route to an easy 73-54 win Sunday afternoon, completing a season sweep of North Carolina for the second straight year. With the victory, the Blue Devils secured the No. 3 seed in this weekend’s ACC tournament.
“It was just a fun, solid game and we got better and now we can actually rest,” head coach Joanne P. McCallie said. “It’s been a long three games and I know mental fatigue crept in there at times, but I’m really proud of this team.”
Gorecki has been a team leader on the court during much of her time in Durham (18-11, 12-6 in the ACC), and Sunday was no different. The Palatine, Ill., native finished with a game-high 23 points in her final regular season game as a Blue Devil, shooting 8-of-14 from the field and 4-of-7 from deep.
“Very proud of this team,” McCallie said. “The story they’ve created, coming from wherever we’ve came from to third place in the league and not that many points out of first or second if you think about it. With Haley and [graduate student guard Kyra Lambert] and [senior forward Leaonna Odom] and [senior center Emily Schubert], if that isn’t senior leadership, I don’t know what is.”
Much of the action was seen in the first quarter, and although it looked as though the quarter would end in a 19-19 tie, sophomore Miela Goodchild hit a smooth shot from beyond the arc to put the Blue Devils up 22-19 with just 23 seconds remaining in the period.
Goodchild would finish the game with 12 points on 4-of-6 shooting from the field.
“Miela is an excellent player, and our team looks for her,” McCallie said. “When those feet are set, she can hit a shot from anywhere. Miela is a much better player this year than she was last year, there’s no comparison.”
For Duke, 3-pointers made all the difference. North Carolina (16-13, 7-11) seemed to struggle in that area, finishing only 2-of-21 from beyond the arc, while the Blue Devils shot 8-of-17 from deep. The classic duo of Goodchild and Gorecki combined to shoot 6-of-11 from distance.
“The ACC has a lot of great shooters and great shooting teams and we knew Carolina is a great three-point shooting team,” Lambert said. “So we just put emphasis on making it hard, being there on the catch.”
Duke’s prolific shooting led to a 41-32 lead by the end of the first half. The Tar Heels struggled to recover from this early deficit, and the Blue Devils rode their advantage in the third quarter, stretching the lead up to 56-43 entering the final period.
North Carolina relied heavily on its starters, only putting up two total bench points compared to Duke’s 23 points off the bench.
“I thought we just kept getting better and better,” McCallie said. “It started with defense, pushing the tempo and controlling the tempo a little bit. I’ve felt that that’s something we’ve been getting good at, being able to get better through a game and so our best play occurring through the third or fourth quarter, that’s key if you want to run through a tournament. You’ve got to finish strong.”
The Blue Devils will travel again next week to Greensboro, N.C., to compete in the ACC tournament in Greensboro Coliseum. Duke will receive a double-bye and begin play Friday at 8 p.m. in the quarterfinals.
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