Two weeks ago, the Blue Devils traveled to Blacksburg, Va. and started their ACC slate off with a loss. And when Virginia Tech made the trek to Durham Thursday night, the Hokies made it clear that, once again, Duke would not be overpowering them.
Debuting the new grey uniforms, the Blue Devils worked hard to exhibit a show on the hardwood that was just as clean as the jerseys they donned. But despite playing a consistent game, No. 17 Duke didn’t have what it takes to overpower the unranked, but talented Virginia Tech squad. The two teams picked up business exactly where they left off—with the Hokies overpowering the Blue Devils 65-54 at Cameron Indoor Stadium. The contest was defined by fouls, capitalizing on mistakes and missed baskets, and when all was said and done, these factors all worked in the Hokies’ favor.
The Blue Devils’ normal starting guard Celeste Taylor missed the game due to a shoulder injury she suffered against Syracuse and fellow normal starter Lexi Gordon was out due to health and safety protocols. With Taylor and Gordon out, the Blue Devils debuted their third different starting lineup of the season, one including Shayeann Day-Wilson—Duke’s leading scorer and 3-point shooter—and Imani Lewis.
“It’s just execution. We've got to be better executing the plays that are called, and we’ll work on that,” head coach Kara Lawson said at the post-game media conference. “....We’ll just keep working and try to execute better. I thought that was the difference for us in the fourth quarter—the lack of execution.”
Finishing the third quarter in a two-point deficit, it was clear that this rematch was as balanced as they come. Day-Wilson drained a basket to tie the score once again and Elizabeth Balogun added another jumper to give Duke (11-3, 2-2 in the ACC) the two-point lead. However, Virginia Tech reacted hungrily adding two treys and a jumper to take back the lead. The Hokies continued their hot streak throughout the last five minutes of play, eventually edging to a 10-point lead on Duke with two minutes remaining on the clock. And despite changing possessions, these factors allowed Virginia Tech (12-4, 4-1) to close off the match.
“They made some tough shots. We had a couple of defensive mistakes on a couple of them,” Lawson said. “But you know, they made some tough shots. A couple of them were just uncontested threes.”
To start the game, Virginia Tech drained the first two baskets, but Day-Wilson’s playmaking efforts and strong passing skills led to an Balogun basket that began Duke’s scoring cascade. Getting their first basket and the stands being close to as packed and loud as when the Blue Devils played then-No. 9 Iowa, Duke had all the energy in its favor.
The Blue Devils played relentless man-to-man defense, and the first quarter was defined by sloppy play with plenty of turnovers and steals for both squads.
Duke began the second quarter of the game lingering tightly to Virginia Tech’s one-point lead. Still, it quickly turned the lead in its favor thanks to a foul from the Hokies, allowing Lewis to go 2-of-2 at the charity stripe. Throughout the half, the Blue Devils went an efficient 43.3% success mark from the field, much stronger than the Hokies’ own 31.3% clip.
“I was pleased number-wise. I mean [Virginia Tech] didn’t shoot a particularly great percentage from any of the levels,” Lawson said. “.... We’re kind of where we needed to be, we just couldn’t score enough that second half to match those 3-pointers they made late.”
The squad continued their first quarter stride into the second 10 minutes of play, restricting even the Hokies’ top player and the tallest person on the court, the 6-foot-6 Elizabeth Kitley, from adding a basket in the paint for her team several times.
Blue Devil dominance defined the last two minutes of the first half. Responding to a Hokie layup, Goodchild drained her first trey of the match to break a tie between the two squads. From there, Duke made good use of Virginia Tech’s missed baskets, fighting on the boards and grabbing the defensive rebound to give it the opportunity at goal, and Day-Wilson quickly added a jumper. Lewis contributed another basket thanks to a Miela Goodchild assist off a rebound to finish off the first half, putting Duke up 32-25 on Virginia Tech—nothing like the 18-point lead the Hokies had on them the last time the two squads battled it out.
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The second half began with a strong-willed fight from Virginia Tech, in which the group scored the first two baskets within two minutes in its attempt to catch up with Duke. The first big score of the third quarter came from a Goodchild 3-pointer, her second trey of the night.
“We all have roles on our team, and it’s just about everyone bringing their best foot forward–doing what they can to help the team,” Goodchild said.
The Blue Devils finished with a 35.7% clip from the field and a 27.3% mark from beyond the arc. Virginia Tech led Duke in both aspects, finishing with a 36.9% mark from the field and a 33.3% percentage from downtown.
Balogun was the leading scorer for Duke, garnering 15 points, with Goodchild and Day-Wilson closely following with 12 and 10 points, respectively.
Duke will next hit the road later this week for a series of demanding away games, starting with a local match in which the squad battles No. 4 N.C. State Jan. 16 and a further contest with Miami Jan. 18.
Ana Young is a Trinity first-year and a staff reporter for the news and sports departments.