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'Feed off each other': Duke women's basketball sharing the scoring load as season begins

Senior point guard Mikayla Boykin was one of four Blue Devils to score in double digits Saturday against East Carolina.
Senior point guard Mikayla Boykin was one of four Blue Devils to score in double digits Saturday against East Carolina.

Duke dominated East Carolina 72-47 Saturday afternoon, led by 24 points from Miela Goodchild. The junior guard notched more than double the number of points of the next-highest scorer on either team, sinking six 3-pointers along the way.

However, Goodchild is the third player in three games this season to lead the Blue Devils in scoring. 

Graduate transfer Sara Anastasieska led Duke with 23 points against Western Carolina, and sophomore Jaida Patrick led the team with 21 against Longwood. Other players have had standout performances as well, from Jade Williams’ near triple-double against the Catamounts to Onome Akinbode-James’ career-high 15 points against the Lancers. In other words, this is a team that can share the load. 

“I feel this team, we kind of feed off each other,” senior point guard Mikayla Boykin, who scored 10 points in her first game of the season Saturday, said. “So at any point, any given time of the game, somebody can go off. And it's not going to be the same person.”

Sharing the scoring load could become one of the hallmarks of head coach Kara Lawson’s tenure in Durham, and while it remains to be seen how this tactic plays out against tougher ACC competition, the strategy should help a developing Blue Devil team that doesn’t have a true go-to option.

A big question coming into this season was how to replace the scoring of Leaonna Odom and Haley Gorecki, who both ran out of eligibility last year. Perhaps it’s too early to answer that definitively, but it seems that not only is every member of the team pulling their weight in that respect, they’re all helping each other pull that weight as well—in the first half Saturday, the Blue Devils assisted on 13 of their 17 field goals. 

“We're a team that likes to pass the ball,” Lawson said. “And the unselfish nature of our group—I think it starts with that. Are your players bought into unselfishness? Are they bought into making the right pass? Are they bought into making the right play? I think our entire roster is that.”

While it’s clear that a passing mentality is sinking into the team, some creases still need to be ironed out. Duke totaled 23 turnovers Saturday, many from passes gone awry. The very tactic that has carried the Blue Devils to blowout wins in their first three games could become their Achilles’ heel when they face talented conference foes that will exploit every mistake.

Thus, Lawson also mentioned that Duke has focused in practice on being able to read the defense to improve that decision-making, though it’s a work in progress. Mistakes are part of the game, and with many players filling bigger shoes than last season, those mistakes may be more numerous to start than the Blue Devils would like. 

Nevertheless, these past three wins show that this team has a lot of upside. With four players in double-digit scoring Saturday, the question of the season may not be who replaces Odom and Gorecki, but rather how the entire team rises to the occasion and shares the load. 

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