Monday morning was a record-breaking occasion in Cameron Indoor Stadium, as Duke surpassed its single-game foul record in its season-opening win against North Carolina A&T. But in the first half Thursday evening against Charleston Southern, Duke almost found a much better meaning of record-breaking.
The Blue Devils put up 62 points in the first half of their 111-50 victory over the Buccaneers, just three shy of the 65-point program record set in 2009 against N.C. Central. Duke found opportunities inside the paint from the opening whistle, using a full-court press to force turnovers early and grabbing steals as Charleston Southern tried its own few-and-far-between attempts to drive inside.
“You have to be disciplined defensively, and you have to be disruptive,” head coach Kara Lawson said after the game. “I thought we were both tonight. … The other column that I’m pleased with is 26 assists. A very unselfish group, and I told them after the game, that’s a sign of their spirit they play with. They want to play with each other, and they want to pass to each other, and they want to see each other succeed.”
Duke (2-0) took off on an 8-0 run to start the game, forcing four turnovers in the first three minutes and capitalizing on three of them for open layups. Sophomore guard Lee Volker was responsible for six of those eight points, supported by graduate transfer forward Taya Corosdale, who twice found her unguarded on the baseline for easy finishes.
“[Volker] is someone that I can count on every day. She’s like the sun. She’s gonna come up and she’s gonna set, and I know what I’m gonna get from her every single day,” Lawson said of Volker.
The Buccaneers (1-1) struggled to maintain defensive composure as Duke continued to play from inside; they notched five personal fouls in the first six minutes of play, two of which were against Corosdale as she tried to put up quick floaters.
While Duke found success under the basket, scoring 10 of its first 15 points in the paint, Charleston Southern found early scoring success from farther out. The Buccaneers scored their first 12 points on four 3-pointers, having attempted seven from beyond the arc before Duke even attempted its first—which Day-Wilson missed, but on a second attempt, the ball swished through the net as the buzzer sounded to conclude the first quarter. All of Charleston Southern’s early attempts to find the rim were quickly denied by an agile Duke defense, which featured back-to-back clean blocks by graduate transfer Mia Heide and Corosdale.
“We’ve been working really hard on our half-court defense, trying not to give too many easy opportunities,” Lawson said. “I thought that was a weakness of our team last year, defense in the half court—the numbers say that, it’s not just my opinion—and we’ve worked really hard to try to improve there.”
There was never a lead change after Duke took the lead in the first minute of the game, but there was a particular shift of momentum from Duke as the second quarter drew to a close, and there was nothing Charleston Southern could do to stop the flow of Duke’s offense aside from fouling. The 10-0 run for Duke was launched by a successful layup from Day-Wilson, who landed on the court after being fouled by senior guard Tori Gittens but added the and-one successfully. Corosdale led the charge in the following moments of the game, adding five points after being fouled twice in a row at the rim, while a steal from senior guard Celeste Taylor found Heide, who also got herself on the board with an and-one.
“I thought [Corosdale] in particular was attacking, got herself to the free-throw line and helped set a tone,” Lawson said. “I thought it was our defense that gave us that many points in the first half because we just got out in transition off those steals and off those turnovers.”
The second half was less of an occasion for Duke, whose 49 points didn’t quite propel it to the single-game record of 128 points set in 2002 against Howard. Forwards Shay Bollin and Imani Lewis found opportunities in the third and fourth quarters, respectively, while freshman guard Emma Koabel had her debut in Duke blue. But though Duke’s scoring slowed, the momentum on the bench certainly didn’t, offering Lewis a standing ovation after a strong finish at the rim to notch Duke’s 100th point, the first time since November 2016 that the Blue Devils have hit that scoring mark.
The last time Duke took on the Buccaneers was December 2021, when the Blue Devils led by just 16 at halftime, which pales in comparison to this year’s 43-point difference at the break. For a team coming off an inconsistent win against the Aggies, the result is a promising sign for the Blue Devils, who are hoping to find a more consistent trajectory after a disappointing finish last season.
The clock ran out with the pep band’s chants of “our house,” but Duke will be out of town Saturday in Davidson, N.C., where it will take on the Wildcats at noon.
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Leah Boyd is a Pratt senior and a social chair of The Chronicle's 118th volume. She was previously editor-in-chief for Volume 117.