Even Feb. 1 is Groundhog Day for these Blue Devils.
Duke lost at home to No. 12 Georgia Tech 59-46, a late rally not enough to crawl out of a 15-point first-quarter hole. The 13-point loss comes two days after a 12-point loss to No. 4 Louisville. The Yellow Jackets’ 11th-ranked defense (per Her Hoop Stats) harassed the Blue Devils early and often, forcing a first quarter in which Duke scored just five points on 2-of-9 shooting with six turnovers. The Blue Devils did claw back to an eight-point deficit, but that was too little, too late.
Point guard Shayeann Day-Wilson again led Duke, with 17 points on 6-of-15 from the field, three rebounds, and three assists against three turnovers; combo forward Lexi Gordon had 11 points on 4-of-8 from the field and 3-of-5 from three with four rebounds. The opposing frontcourt once again gave the Blue Devils trouble, with Georgia Tech center Nerea Hermosa and big Lorela Cubaj combining for 27 points on a 13-of-33 mark from the field, 14 rebounds, and five assists.
“[Georgia Tech has] got tremendous size and length across the board,” said acting head coach Winston Gandy. “And it's one of those situations where they did a really good job of moving the ball and getting good shots. It's one of those things where, when you do make the mistakes that we made, typically good teams make you pay. So it's one of the biggest challenges for us, as we continue to grow, is to try to cut down [on those mistakes]—we're not eliminating them all. But you can cut down on your mistakes and you'll start to see things turn.”
Duke (13-7, 4-6 in the ACC) managed to eke out some offensive production in the second quarter, tying Georgia Tech (18-4, 9-2) across the period 14-14. The Blue Devils hit 40% of their shots from the field and from three, though most of those came on late-clock heaves or defensive breakdowns; Duke hadn’t exactly broken through with a winning formula. The Blue Devils trailed by 15 to end the second.
That certainly seemed the case in the early second half, where the Yellow Jackets extended their lead all the way to 41-22. But some well-executed Blue Devil rolls and flashes got the ball moving for a few layups and an open three, and the defensive pressure ramped up and forced Georgia Tech back into poor shots. Much like in the game’s opening minutes, Duke denied shots at the rim, got into their matchups’ grills, and forced some turnovers. The Blue Devils went on an 11-4 run from the mid-third through the early fourth quarter, and briefly got within single-digits in the mid-fourth.
Day-Wilson powered that run, pushing in transition and getting to the rim and even creating an alley-oop for center Jade Williams. Just two days after having a 10-point fourth quarter at No. 4 Louisville, the freshman had 11 points and two assists over the final 11.5 minutes of the game.
“I think, like most good players, that the game typically slows down when you feel the pace of the game, feel the way the game's being called. And then I think as the game moves on, you kind of adjust to how the defense is playing,” said Gandy. “I think typically the best ones, typically in the fourth quarter, they've kind of seen all the tricks of the trade, they've seen different looks the defense has given you; and she's done a really good job of being able to continue to make plays for herself as well as for others.”
But the Blue Devils were ultimately in too big of a hole to start out with, and a handful of late shots from Georgia Tech were enough to put the game away.
Duke started off the game in positive fashion, keeping within one score through three and a half minutes despite barely any offensive production. The team routinely forced Yellow Jackets into poor shots, hitting timely defensive rotations in a way they’d failed to all season.
Halfway through the first quarter, the Blue Devils trailed by only four. Then the brakes fell off.
Over the last five minutes of the first quarter, Georgia Tech outscored Duke 14-3. The Yellow Jackets’ defensive help began arriving, and the Blue Devils were repeatedly forced into shot-clock violations or near-violations that yielded easy transition scores. Playing that much on the move, there were no opportunities to make better rotations.
Duke has now lost five of its last seven seven games, including going 0-3 over the past six days. It closes its four-games-in-eight-days stretch with a trip to Pittsburgh, Pa. Thursday.
“I think as a group, we don't really focus on results; we're process-driven,” said Gandy. “I think when you focus on the process, even just little things along the way—things within within the quarter, things within the half, things within the game that you can point and say, 'Hey, we're getting better at,' even if it didn't manage to manifest itself into a win. And so I think that we've had some positive takeaways from tonight, even though it didn't yield the win, as maybe we would've liked. But I do think, as we kind of continue [into] this next stretch of games, as long as we continue to trend in the direction we are, I do believe our best basketball is ahead.”
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