It wasn’t pretty, but Duke got it done.
At the Watsco Center in warm, sunny Coral Gables, Fla., the Blue Devils bested the Hurricanes 58-49 on the back of Miela Goodchild’s continued resurgence and another solid performance from Shayeann Day-Wilson.
"I just thought we showed great resiliency and I thought that we stayed together...You all know how hard it is to win games on the road in this league, and I'm excited for what the performance was today," head coach Kara Lawson said, also noting later, "I'm really pleased with both our guards here this afternoon, [Day-Wilson] and [Goodchild]."
Though the Blue Devils ultimately finished leading in all the stat categories you want to lead in and trailing in all the ones you don’t, this game was certainly not the Blue Devils’ best work. The first half required a clutch performance from Goodchild to keep their head above water, and the second half was an uphill battle the Blue Devils likely want to move on from.
However, after a quiet first half, Shayeann Day-Wilson came alive and scored 11 points en route to an 11th double-digit performance, and a 6-0 run despite the Blue Devils’ struggles ultimately secured the win for Duke.
"In a little bit of a breakthrough for us, we really executed well down the stretch, and when possessions had some pressure on them I thought we shone through and did a good job," Lawson said of their late-game surge.
The Blue Devils got off to a slow start, shooting 41% in the first quarter. However, as the rest of the team struggled to sink baskets, Goodchild rallied to carry her team to a win. Finishing with 17 points (one below her season-high), one assist and seven rebounds, Goodchild showed how she’s earned her new starting spot.
"We just want players in our rotation that are going to be able to impact the game, and that's what [Goodchild] does: she impacts the game for us. It's been a critical juncture for us; obviously, we've had some players in and out, and we've really needed people to step up and give us some production, and she has done that," Lawson said.
The Australia native got her first start of the season Jan. 2 against Notre Dame, and after Celeste Taylor was injured and ruled day-to-day, her responsibility bumped up even more. Last season, Goodchild was the clear-cut focal point of the Blue Devils (12-4, 3-3 in the ACC), though they only played four games. However, after an influx of talented transfers, Goodchild started the season with a significantly shrunken role.
Now, though, it’s clear that Blue Devil faithful shouldn’t count her out. Over the past five games, including this one, Goodchild has averaged 13.4 points. Tuesday, despite Goodchild somewhat struggling with accuracy on her 6-of-15 clip from beyond the arc, the Blue Devils simply couldn’t have come home with a win without her. Though she’s primarily a shooter—over half her points this season coming in were from 3-pointers—her fearlessness to step out of her comfort zone and make the right play allowed her to rise to the occasion and lead her team to a win. Driving inside, making layups and getting her hands dirty, Goodchild was invaluable all afternoon.
"[I've been] given the opportunity, and you have just got to take it by two hands. I'm just trying to do my best for this team, and we're trying to get as many wins as we can. So [I'm] just putting my best foot forward," Goodchild said.
Still, while Goodchild’s heroics in the first half were a welcome development, she wouldn’t have had to go on such a tear if the Blue Devils as a whole had performed better.
Overall, Duke shot 42% from the field and went 5-of-24 from distance, as the team battled a particularly ferocious scoring curse. That doesn’t necessarily mean the Blue Devils played poorly, they didn’t, but after back-to-back losses against Virginia Tech and N.C. State, a win that was this much of a grind exposes the areas this team still needs to improve.
"I made sure to emphasize to our group when we lost those two games in a row, there were signs of improvement by our group, it just didn't show on the box score," Lawson said. "I think if you are just so, so attached to the result all the time, you lose out on moments to grow. So, we want to keep improving, we want to keep growing."
The biggest detriment to Duke was its turnovers. It ultimately gave up the ball 15 times and conceded seven points off turnovers. The Hurricanes gave up more though, and to the Blue Devils’ credit, even when they turned over the ball they didn’t give up on the play, often making it across the court to prevent Miami (9-6, 2-3) from capitalizing on their mistakes.
In the second half, the shooting curse continued, if not getting worse, and the Blue Devils struggled to jell, ultimately allowing Miami to briefly take a lead. Goodchild, after an exemplary first half, slowed down, though Day-Wilson was there to pick up the slack. Her big numbers in the second half were augmented by her passing. Even before she tallied any points, the freshman had four assists, and she ultimately finished with seven as she continues to demonstrate her ability as a play-maker.
"I think playmaking is my best ability, so obviously [I'm going to] keep making the right reads when I see them," Day-Wilson said. "I'm a very confident player, and I never hold my head down. I know that the shots are gonna come, but I'd rather just find my teammates, because that's kind of my job out there: to find them [and] get them going. Then, my game will come on when it comes on."
As the Blue Devils make the trip back to Durham, they’ll have a lot to reflect on, but ultimately a win is a win, and the Goodchild Renaissance especially should put a smile on head coach Kara Lawson’s face.
Next, Duke takes on Virginia where it will have a chance to fit its pieces together more cleanly.
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Sasha Richie is a Trinity senior and a sports managing editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.