Against a physical opponent and plagued by shooting inconsistencies, Duke had to rely on Lexi Gordon’s high production in its 54-39 win against Pittsburgh Thursday.
Going into the game, the returns of star guard Celeste Taylor and head coach Kara Lawson were the themes. However, while it was indeed expected that the Blue Devils would continue their all-time undefeated record against Pittsburgh and capture their fourteenth win, Gordon still stepped up in impressive fashion, registering 12 points on 4-of-10 from the floor, four rebounds and one assist.
Particularly in the first half of the game, when Duke’s offense periodically went on two-minute scoring droughts, Gordon’s threes helped the Blue Devils inch past the Panthers in what was initially a single-digit contest. In fact, when the team’s offense went cold, Gordon could be seen pacing around the court, getting into an open position for her teammates to give her a good look from downtown. She stretched the floor against a tight Pittsburgh defense, igniting the spark that heated up the Blue Devil offense.
Whether it was knocking down threes or posting up in the paint, Gordon demonstrated her high basketball IQ, contributing to offensive runs without needing to dominate the basketball. Thus, it is no surprise that Gordon, just ahead of freshman guard Shayeann Day-Wilson, played the most minutes Thursday—logging 29 of them.
Yet, what was impressive about the wing’s evening was that she executed well in the face of pressure. Coming off three straight loses, Duke desperately needed a win to reinvigorate team morality. As such, the graduate transfer from Texas expressed how her and her teammates established a vigorously competitive mindset.
“Going into this game [we knew] it would be a grinded out game and that we wanted to leave with a win,” Gordon said.
Despite the win, though, Duke struggled at times in building a cohesive offensive identity. For stretches, its passes were too sloppy—with several cross-court passes chucked out of bounds, contributing to the 18 turnovers compared to Pittsburgh’s 15. During the second and third quarter, multiple scoreless droughts became a consistent trend for the Blue Devils.
Furthermore, it took multiple possessions for the Blue Devils to score at the start of the last three periods. However, during the fourth quarter as a whole, Duke looked like a well-oiled machine, with a 6-of-13 mark from the field and 3-of-7 from deep—clearly more efficient compared to the other quarters.
Nevertheless, the Blue Devils were able to pick up a much needed win behind Gordon and company. With Lawson back at the helm and key starter Taylor healthy again, Cameron Crazies can expect to see the team’s deep and lethal offensive runs give ACC defenses issues once more. The matchup against Pittsburgh was just the first step back in the right direction.
“Our goal is to get back onto a win streak. So our win streak now is one and our goal is to continue it and make it grow,” Gordon said.
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