Everyone knows the story about the tortoise and the hare. The moral of it is that slow, productive progress leads to success. However, that fable does not always hold true.
The Blue Devils started extremely slow in their 84-60 loss to N.C. State Sunday, taking almost two minutes before two free throws from Onome Akinbode-James handed Duke its first points. Akindbode-James would make another lay-up 34 seconds later but it took the Blue Devils another four minutes before they would make another basket. That would be the penultimate field goal made by the Blue Devils as the Wolfpack limited them to just three baskets in total that quarter.
In addition to the slow start, the Blue Devils also shot very poorly from the field. At the end of the first quarter, they shot 3-of-15 for their second-worst shooting percentage of the ACC season, only bettered by the 17.3% they shot in the third quarter in their first encounter with Virginia Tech.
There was a slight improvement in the second half, but the 35.7% mark still left Duke behind. The Blue Devils also handled the ball very casually in the first quarter, registering six consecutive turnovers before the Wolfpack registered their first one of the night. The second quarter saw the Blue Devils also mishandle the ball five consecutive times with their opponent only doing so once.
“I thought the turnovers in the first half, really, they put us in a hole, they did a great job being active defensively and, and getting deflections and then scoring off those turnovers, put us in a deep hole,” head coach Kara Lawson said.
By the end of this half, the Blue Devils found themselves trailing by 20 points, their largest halftime deficit. It was only the fifth time this season they found themselves trailing at the half.
It would be interesting to hear what was said during the halftime team talks because the second half came with some fight. A 3-point shot from Miela Goodchild about 14 seconds in got the half underway and consecutive Duke baskets about midway through the half got the Blue Devils within 15 points of the Wolfpack, but that would be the closest they would ever come. There was also an improvement in shooting in this half with 40% and 47.1% marks in the third and fourth quarters, respectively.
This pattern of starting the game extremely slowly and trying to recover was not only evident in this game. The Blue Devils have found themselves behind at the half in five games this season, only winning against Notre Dame and Appalachian State.
Starting the game extremely slowly puts you on the wrong foot and It is not easy to come back when starting off like that. Sometimes the Blue Devils might be able to come back as seen with Notre Dame, but against tougher opponents like N.C. State, that’s not possible. In upcoming games, the Blue Devils need to start off strong and use that start to come out on the winning side of these tough ACC battles.
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