It was a rather tough mountain to climb for the Mountaineers as the Blue Devils came from behind to win the encounter 73-65 at Cameron Indoor Stadium. This victory against Appalachian State marks the first time the program has begun with a 5-0 run since the 2014-15 season.
This game was highlighted by Lexi Gordon’s season-high 21 points and Shayeann Day-Wilson’s season-high 14 points and five assists. Gordon shot 80% from behind the 3-point line, scoring four in five attempts. While she was unable to preserve her hot streak of over 10 points over the past 4 games, Celeste Taylor’s playmaking abilities also sprung to life as she registered a career-high seven assists in this game.
Although there is some reason to be elated, the scoreline and standout are not an accurate reflection or representation of the entirety of the game. To say that the Blue Devils did not deserve the win would be rather harsh but it was not one of their best, if not their worst performances of the Kara era.
“Aside from getting a win, It was a pretty dismal performance by us. Our worst game of the season, worst quarter of the season," Lawson said. "Just very clear that we have a lot of things that we need to work on in particular on the defensive end so we would get to work on that over the next couple of days and try and be in a situation where we can play better and defend better. Can’t really say many positive things about tonight other than we won at the end."
The Blue Devils (5-0) started the game poorly, giving the ball away easily and recording 16 turnovers in the first half, three more than they did in their whole last home game against UNC-Wilmington.
“We are passing to the team in the wrong uniform color. I wish I could explain to you why we are doing that but a ton of unforced turnovers by us, passing to players that are guarded in transition, throwing the ball eight feet in the air to a six-feet player," Lawson said. "Offensive fouls are a part of turnovers so we’ve gotta be more accurate with our passes but if there is any number of reasons why we had 26 turnovers like I said we stepped on the line out of bounds, we traveled, we had two offensive fouls, we passed balls directly to them."
Duke gave up 24 second-quarter points, the most allowed in a single quarter all season by the Blue Devils and found themselves behind 34-28 at halftime. The 28 Duke points in the first half was also a season-low.
The Blue Devils were a bit more cautious with the ball towards the business end of the game registering 10 more turnovers to take their total tally to 26, their worst of the season.
Apart from turnovers, Duke was also having a difficult time reading screens with players often getting stuck in position allowing for an easy drive for the opposition to the basket. On the offensive end, there was a lack of off-ball movements making it difficult for the team to make plays.
It is unclear what was said in the dressing room during halftime but after the break, the Blue Devils looked like a different team. They began playing like a unit, communicating and being defensively organized, turning the game on its head.
“I think it was that third quarter. We got a good rhythm defensively, and we were finally able to string together some stops. We got out and in transition. I think that play where [Balogun] made the layup and then Celeste got intentionally fouled, ended up being a 6 point swing. I think that allowed us to take control of the lead and never give it back," Lawson said. "I think that was a big turning point in the game when we had that group out there. That really upped things defensively.”
The Blue Devils ended up scoring 33 points in the third quarter, which is tied for the second-most in a quarter in school history. They ended the 3rd quarter in a much comfortable position, leading 61-47.
The Mountaineers (3-3) never looked to give up in the fourth quarter, with Alexia Allesch dropping two quickfire 3-pointers within 30 seconds to reduce the deficit to 61-53. She looked to attempt another one before a magnificent block by Elizabeth Balogun prevented her from making another three or instigating any potential comeback. Appalachian State also attempted to mount another late fourth-quarter rally and pulled within 65-59 with just over four minutes to play. However, that proved to be as close as the Moutaineers would get, as the Blue Devils scored the next seven points to regain a double-digit advantage and ice the game.
Duke will be hoping to correct its mistakes and not only win but to produce a commendable performance as well in its upcoming home game against Troy this Sunday.
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