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Duke women's basketball's win against Appalachian State is latest display of team's ability to win close games

The Blue Devils have showed an ability to hang on to close games, largely thanks to this roster's tremendous versatility.
The Blue Devils have showed an ability to hang on to close games, largely thanks to this roster's tremendous versatility.

Cooking up their recipe for victory again Wednesday night, each Blue Devil who saw court time brought out a secret ingredient to the floor.

Though Duke was the first to put numbers on the scoreboard, Appalachian State’s reaction was quick, retaliating with the night’s second, third and fourth scores within two minutes of the Jade Williams-made layup. The Blue Devils managed a slim lead by the end of the first quarter. Yet, it was the Mountaineers who had the lead at the end of the second quarter thanks to them going 10-of-16 in their field goals, which included three 3-pointers, to put them at a six-point advantage against Duke by halftime. The Mountaineers were unrelenting throughout, yet the Blue Devils came into the second half as ready to feast as they had never before. When the clock ticked zero, the ravenous Blue Devils had devoured Appalachian State 73-65 in their comeback.

“We have to be able to settle, put poor possessions behind us and then keep playing,” head coach Kara Lawson said at the post-game media conference. “Sometimes it goes for long stretches, but I think our group is resilient enough that they can put two to three poor possessions behind us and then try to turn things around.”

Having only scored 28 points in its first 20 minutes of play, for Duke, recording 33 points in the third quarter alone shows that it has no plans to register a loss anytime soon. The Mountaineers also began the second half competitively, recording the first score and then racking up another two points after Vanessa de Jesus added a three. However, Lawson’s emphasis on solid defensive play made all the difference in preventing an Appalachian State score for the two minutes that Duke went on a scoring rampage to add 11 points to the board.

The actuality of losing summoned the Blue Devils to the paint to rack up both offensive and defensive rebounds, recording 10 in total for the quarter to the Mountaineer’s five. Paired with five steals during the period, Duke was virtually unstoppable—it just kept gaining possession. Once the Blue Devils had the ball, they had all the eggs in their basket for offensive dominance. They made that happen with the help of seven different scorers, headlined by graduate student Lexi Gordon and freshman Shayeann Day-Wilson, who added seven and 12 points, respectively.

“I think they came out of the game with more energy than we did, and we dug ourselves a little bit of a hole,” Gordon said. “I think that third quarter we brought that energy, and it showed.”

Appalachian State isn’t the only team that Duke has had to dig itself out of a hole from this season. Last weekend, the Blue Devils competed against Alabama in a match they had control over for the first half. However, the Crimson Tide remained close to their lead throughout. By the end of the third quarter, they bested Duke in the score and would stay on top until the showdown that happened during the final minute—when the Blue Devils defeated them due to quick thinking and fast action. They did something similar several weeks before that in their competition against Dayton. They let the Flyers get close multiple times throughout the second and third quarters after holding a 13-point advantage during the first quarter. However, just like they did against Alabama and the Mountaineers, they ultimately took home the cake by the end by utilizing their depth.

With a 5-0 record to protect and honors such as McDonald’s All-American, Olympian and USA Basketball Gold Medalist racked up among the roster, Duke has continued to find ways to win. It has proven that it can bounce back from a deficit and that its appetite has only led to triumphs so far.

The team’s most significant test up to now quickly approaches on the horizon, with a Dec. 2 date for its competition against No. 8 Iowa. Given the Blue Devils' performance this season and the power this group holds, Duke has the potential to put on a show. Duke is undoubtedly the underdog, but it has versatility on its side, along with some more court time recorded this week due to the Hawkeyes having to cancel three games because of positive COVID-19 tests within the program.

The Blue Devils better have saved room for dessert after their win Wednesday because they have one more match against Troy to secure before taking on Iowa. The Blue Devils will take on the Trojans at Cameron Indoor Stadium Sunday at 2 p.m. In this contest, Lawson doesn’t want to see any more shortfalls coming from Duke.

“What I say to [the team] after every game is ‘Let’s watch the film and see where we can improve….’ What I said to them is that we need to get in the gym and get better defensively,” Lawson said. “That’s our focus, and that’s what we need to get better on before the game on Sunday.”


Ana Young

Ana Young is a Trinity first-year and a staff reporter for the news and sports departments.

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