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Five observations from Duke women's basketball's first half against North Carolina

Senior wing Elizabeth Balogun led the Blue Devils in scoring during the first half.
Senior wing Elizabeth Balogun led the Blue Devils in scoring during the first half.

Following a long two-year hiatus, Duke finally welcomed North Carolina to Cameron Indoor Stadium Thursday. After a close start, the Tar Heels jumped ahead in the second quarter to take a 47-26 lead at the half. Here are five observations on the first 20 minutes of action.

Absent no longer

Following an absence against Virginia due to Duke health and safety protocols last Sunday, senior guard Miela Goodchild was back in the lineup for the Blue Devils against North Carolina. Though she didn’t start, she made an appearance off the bench, registering three rebounds and one point in 15 minutes. A traditional sharpshooter from beyond the arc, Goodchild will look for an improvement in her perimeter shooting in the second half following her 0-of-5 mark in the first, though.

Missed shots, many rebounds

Duke did not shoot particularly well from the field, with a 34% mark to North Carolina’s 54%. With missed shots came rebound opportunities, though, a contest Duke won 22 to 16. Duke will be hoping for more clinical finishing in the second half, but will be encouraged by the way it’s competed on the defensive glass. The Blue Devils registered 14 defensive rebounds and the Tar Heels 15, both substantially higher than their respective eight and four offensive marks.

Loss of Lawson

Duke announced close to tipoff that head coach Kara Lawson wouldn’t be on the sidelines for tonight's game due to health and safety protocols. Assistant coach Winston Grady assumed Lawson’s play-calling post for the evening and it’s unclear as of now how long she’ll be missing and if she’ll be back for the Blue Devils’ next game against Louisville Sunday. Who knows how the first half would’ve played out had Lawson been there, but let’s put it this way: the absence of a coach doesn’t usually help a team, no matter how skilled their stand-in.

A tale of turnovers

One large contributor to the Blue Devils’ deficit at halftime was their inability to hold onto the ball compared to the Tar Heels. Duke gave away 11 turnovers in the first half to North Carolina’s two, compounding in 18 surrendered points. It doesn’t matter how well a team can shoot if it gives away the ball on possession, and the Blue Devils will be hoping for steadier handling and stabler possession as the second half beckons.

Player of the half: Elizabeth Balogun

Senior wing Elizabeth Balogun put up a team-leading seven points and three rebounds in the first half, helping to control the glass on errant shots and keeping the Blue Devils in it early with a clutch deep triple and two made free throws. She was benched for much of the second quarter, to the disappointment of Duke fans, but was the Blue Devil’s best player in the 10 minutes she registered.

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