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Duke women's basketball cruises by Charleston Southern to wrap up nonconference play

Elizabeth Balogun (left) and Lee Volker (right) contributed 14 and seven points, respectively, against Charleston Southern.
Elizabeth Balogun (left) and Lee Volker (right) contributed 14 and seven points, respectively, against Charleston Southern.

Bring on the ACC.

No. 16 Duke traveled to the Buccaneer Fieldhouse in Charleston, S.C., Tuesday afternoon to take on Charleston Southern in its final game before ACC play. The Blue Devils put up a commanding performance across 40 minutes and established some momentum in their 78-35 victory before next week’s clash against Virginia Tech, rebounding from their hard-fought but ultimately fruitless home loss to No. 1 South Carolina last Wednesday.

Even within the first few minutes, it was clear that Duke would be taking the win back to Durham. It posted 20 points to Charleston Southern’s 10 within the first quarter, led by 16 at half-time and surrendered only 35 points at the final whistle, its lowest all year. The Blue Devils’ superior offensive and defensive talent proved too deep and too strong for the Buccaneers to meaningfully challenge, and in the end, Duke had more than doubled its half-time lead and completely stifled Charleston Southern’s offensive threat, forcing 20 turnovers and a 3-point percentage of 6%.

“I thought the second half, I wasn't really happy with the first half,” said head coach Kara Lawson. “But I thought in the second half that we buckled down, and we played much better defensively, much better offensively, the movement attacking the paint. So I'm pleased with the way the game ended.”

Though the win was impressive and the scoring margin large, the clearest gulf between the two teams was in rebounding and second-chance opportunities. Duke (9-1) out-rebounded Charleston Southern (0-11) 34-12 at halftime and dominated the backboard throughout the game. The Blue Devils notched 32 second-chance points to the Buccaneers’ one and out-rebounded them 31-3 on the offensive glass, dominating not just on the stat sheet but also to the eye. If the ball didn’t hit its intended target, chances were a Duke jersey was the one to snag it and proceed to put it back or dump it out for an open 3-pointer.

“I'll be honest with you, I think we just missed a lot of shots,” said Lawson. “And there were just a lot of opportunities to get offensive rebounds. I thought our players did a great job of just crashing the glass on the shots, and we missed them. But they stayed attacking and we were able to get the offensive rebounds. So I think it was just a function of us missing and then them having a hard time boxing out against the zone.”

Senior Elizabeth Balogun was emblematic of this dominance, who put in yet another stellar shift with her 14 points and seven rebounds, continuing an impressive debut season for the Blue Devils. Balogun was one of many new high-profile offseason additions to Duke’s team and has played consistently well this season, but Tuesday’s game was undoubtedly her most productive performance yet. She surpassed her 8.3 points and 4.8 rebounds-per-game average and further showed her offensive chops, an aspect of her game often overlooked amid her defensive prowess.

“I thought she did a great job,” said Lawson. “She was efficient for us offensively, she made 3-point shots, which she has the ability to, she looked to attack. She's somebody that's a hard matchup because she's six-one, she has that length, she can shoot the three and she can attack and finish. I thought she, in particular, was somebody that was a stabilizing force for us.”

Aside from Balogun, Miela Goodchild and Nyah Green posted impressive afternoons with 10 points and six rebounds and 10 points and four rebounds, respectively. Duke’s 45 bench points once again proved the immense depth Lawson has at her disposal and seems a good omen heading into a grueling ACC slate that will require more squad rotation and more comprehensive team efforts to grind out wins against elite opponents.

Tuesday’s game may not have been the most difficult nor most important Lawson and her Blue Devils will play this season, but wins like these are necessary to prove that they can win, and win convincingly, when expected to. Fourteen players saw the floor, 12 players scored and Duke recorded a dominant victory and created some momentum leading into the meat of the season.

“As we head toward ACC play, you got to be able to play different ways, you got to be able to win different ways,” said Lawson. “If this game teaches you anything, it is that, especially in this conference, not every game is going to be perfect. You got to be able to win different ways [and] we're trying to build ourselves into a team that can do just that.”

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