With 2:44 left in the second quarter, Duke trailed by six. It had already committed nine turnovers and looked like it would be chasing Jewel Spear and the Demon Deacons for the rest of the game. And then Shayeann Day-Wilson showed up. She scored seven of Duke’s 12 in that final two minutes and 44 seconds, helping the Blue Devils enter halftime with the lead, something they hadn’t had for 18 minutes of play.
Day-Wilson finished the game with 22 points, her third 20-point game this season. Eleven of those came in the third quarter alone, more than she scored against Pittsburgh last game. Though she is only a freshman, Day-Wilson has quickly emerged as a leader on this Duke team, as their point guard and leading scorer.
“I think she’s the best freshman in the conference,” said head coach Kara Lawson.
She certainly was last week, winning her second ACC Freshman of the Week honor. Over the past four games, she averaged an impressive 18.5 points and shot 52.9% from three. Two of those matchups were against ranked opponents, then-No. 5 Louisville and then-No. 12 Georgia Tech. Day-Wilson wasn’t fazed by the big stage.
“When the lights are shining bright, I like to shine,” Day-Wilson said. And shine she has.
This Duke team, only coach Lawson’s second, was full of new faces this season. Instead of joining a squad with years of chemistry and experience, Day-Wilson had her hand in creating it. She made her presence known early on in the season, dropping 26 points on Troy in just her sixth college game. However, she is more than simply a scorer. She is a competitor.
“I love how she competes. And I love how she wants to help her team win,” said Lawson
Day-Wilson’s impact on her team cannot be measured solely in points. Duke has had a difficult slate and numerous lineup changes. The freshman has navigated all adversity with grace.
“She has so much responsibility night in and night out” said Lawson. “… She's having to navigate leading a team, commanding a team with a different lineup every night, and figuring out, how can I get this player going, or what does this player do, and then also how to handle scoring load.”
For some, it would be too much, especially as a freshman. Not for Day-Wilson. Big games have been where she has thrived, putting up 19 points on then-No. 9 Iowa, 17 points on No. 1 South Carolina and 25 points on then-No. 5 Louisville. When she is on the court, she is selfless: she will do whatever she can to give her team a chance to win.
“I think I'm a willing passer, I'm always going to pass it to whoever's open,” said Day-Wilson.
That selflessness was on full display against Wake Forest. The offense, all 81 points of it, ran through Day-Wilson as she spread the ball and created opportunities for her teammates, especially junior Lexi Gordon. Gordon led the team with 23 points shooting an incredible 81.8% from the field. The chemistry that the two have is undeniable and only improving.
“She knows where I’m going to be and I know where she’s going to be. I think it’s a nice little connection,” said Gordon.
The two were electric against Wake Forest, combining for 45 points. What can’t be contained in a stat line was their ability to swing the momentum and take over the game. It was Day-Wilson who gave the Blue Devils the lead in the first half and who kept it through the third quarter. Then, it was Gordon who held on to it as the clock wound down.
“It’s pretty cool to see a freshman having this type of impact on a winning team,” said Lawson of Day-Wilson.
She is sure to be a leader on the team for the entirety of her tenure, pointing to a bright future for the program.
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