With less than a minute remaining and the Blue Devils out to a 44-point lead, Emma Schmidt entered the game for the first time this season.
Duke dominated the game throughout, but Tuesday’s matchup against Charleston Southern was nothing of the ordinary for the squad. For the first time this season, every member of the roster (Jordyn Oliver is out for the season with a torn achilles) saw game time. Schmidt, a graduate walk-on transfer from TCU in her second season of NCAA competition, saw her first time on the court at the Buccaneer Fieldhouse. Thanks to the help of 14 total Blue Devils, the team consistently improved its offense throughout, ending the contest with a 78-35 victory to give the squad a 9-1 success mark.
“What I love about our group is they’re unselfish enough to know that…it won’t be them every single night,” head coach Kara Lawson said at the postgame media conference. “It’s going to be other people. And they do a great job of cheering for one another and finding the person that’s kind of got it going in that stretch of the game.”
A myriad of Blue Devils supplied help in atypical ways. Sophomore guard Vanessa de Jesus reached a career-high in rebounds, registering 10 on the day to contribute to Duke’s 64 overall. Guard Elizabeth Balogun added 14 points, a season-best, and the highest of any Duke player on the day.
Schmidt was not the only bench player to assist with quality minutes against Charleston Southern. Forward Imani Lewis and guard Nyah Green played in their fourth and fifth matches, respectively, this season in the fight against the Buccaneers, supplying two and 10 points, respectively. Forward Jiselle Havas saw her third contest, contributing one basket to the score.
For Green, this contest was arguably her breakout game with Duke, garnering four rebounds, two assists and one steal to go along with her points.
“I just controlled it, you know, this game—everything fell into place,” Green said. “But that’s just my focus; to see what I can control and to stay locked in.”
Despite the formidable performance Green put on in the competition, the junior guard only entered the game after the first 20 minutes of play were over. Duke began the match slow, not in scoring, as the group managed 40 points in the first half, but in efficiency.
The Blue Devils went 14-of-43 from the floor during the first two quarters to the Buccaneers 10-of-24 mark. Though Charleston Southern didn’t score as many points as Duke did during the first half due to the Blue Devils’ efficiency at the charity stripe, it was clear that Duke had yet to find its stride. The Buccaneers stayed too close to Duke’s lead, following it by only 16 points in a game where Duke was favored by 48.
However, when the Blue Devils stormed back on the court in the second half, they returned with new electricity and kicked it up a notch in the last 20 minutes. With every player on the roster competing in the second half, the team took Charleston Southern by storm, limiting the Buccaneers to 11 points due to a switch in defensive plays. Nine players logged steals and all but two Blue Devils contributed multiple rebounds while Charleston Southern's field goal percentage dipped from 41.6% to 16% in the second half.
“I think we just got more discipline defensively. And you know, we weren’t guarding one-on-one very well,” Lawson said. “The other thing we did was we switched to zone…I thought that change of pace allowed us to gain some traction. We had some players come in and do an excellent job there in the second half.”
When all was said and done, this match further proved the colossal amount of depth this team features. Though their competition was not one of the more difficult teams they will face, the Buccaneers came ready to compete. Yet, Duke shut them down, evidencing that it comes prepared for the next leg of feuds it faces: the ACC.
“This was a game that we were able to play everybody, and I thought the players that came in in the second half were difference-makers,” Lawson said. “[They] not just came in and played. I thought they made a difference for us, which was really good to see.”
This week, the Blue Devils get a well-deserved break from play before beginning their conference slate Dec. 30 in Blacksburg, Va., against Virginia Tech.
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Ana Young is a Trinity sophomore and an assistant Blue Zone editor of The Chronicle’s 118th volume.