Duke’s pep band welcomed fans into Cameron Indoor Stadium Saturday afternoon with an energizing rendition of “Take On Me,” the 1985 hit that reminds listeners “It’s no better to be safe than sorry.”
And in its exhibition game against Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Duke certainly heeded A-ha’s advice, rolling past the Crimson Hawks in a 90-36 victory.
“One of our main goals this year is to be more disruptive defensively,” head coach Kara Lawson said after the game. “I was very pleased with the second-half defense … We challenged them at halftime in that area.”
From the opening whistle, Duke found opportunities to interrupt slow offensive movement from the Crimson Hawks and transform steals into quick fast breaks. Graduate transfer Taya Corosdale notched a steal within the first minute of the match, quickly finding senior Celeste Taylor to lay the ball in for the Blue Devils’ first points of the agame. Sophomore Lee Volker followed suit soon after, deflecting a pass from IUP’s Marry Cerro and finding redshirt junior Jordyn Oliver for an easy finish. Under the basket remained the name of the game for Duke as the game opened, with the Blue Devils often looking to find junior center Kennedy Brown—who notched eight of Duke’s first 14 points—in the paint rather than finishing from beyond the arc.
“We want to have balance to our offense. We want to feel like we can have a presence in the paint; we want to seek points in the paint. … [Brown is] a talented, skilled player. She has great size and she can finish with either hand. It’s an incredible weapon for us, and we want to utilize that,” Lawson said of Brown after the game.
Freshman guard Ashlon Jackson led the charge for the Blue Devils late in the first quarter, opening the second by finding junior guard Vanessa de Jesus for a three, taking a clean charge on the other end of the floor the next play. Taylor followed suit moments later, and with the next play concluding with IUP’s Teirra Preston knocking Brown in the head while guarding her at the elbow, it was clear that both teams were frustrated.
IUP had nine personal fouls to Duke’s eight with 4:49 left to go in the first half. Sophomore Reigan Richardson earned her third within the first nine minutes of play, landing the Georgia transfer on the Blue Devil bench for the first few minutes of the second quarter.
The Blue Devils’ frustrations most likely came from a letup in the offensive performance as the half progressed. Duke scored only nine points in the first seven minutes of the second quarter, facilitated by a plethora of missed mid-range jumpers and free throws, ending the half 4-of-9 from the charity stripe. Brown and Taylor provided Duke some much-needed bursts of momentum during the lag, with Taylor capitalizing on two steals—one of which was her own—with fast-break layups, and Brown energizing fans with an under-the-basket shot block against IUP’s Kiera Baughman.
“They were getting to the paint too easily,” Lawson said of the first half. “We were fouling in that first half. And I think our group did a good job, everyone who played in that second half; we set a goal in terms of how we wanted to pay and dictate that second half, and I think we achieved that.”
Both teams’ first half woes continued into the second half, with the Crimson Hawks committing two fouls under the basket as Volker and Corosdale moved to find the basket. The Blue Devils’ offense was sloppy, with Mia Heide looking to find reigning ACC Freshman of the Year Shayeann Day-Wilson at the top of the key, but misangling the pass.
But the trajectory of the half changed in that exact same play.
While it seemed the Crimson Hawks would find an easy two-points with the turnover, Taylor booked it across the court and came flying in for the shot block, sending the ball into the band section and earning a standing ovation from the Blue Devil faithful. Moments later, Taylor landed on top of the press table after chasing down a loose ball from IUP. No better safe than sorry, as they say.
The third quarter belonged to Taylor, and other players soon followed her relentless competitiveness. De Jesus and Balogun were a solid unit on the defensive front throughout the second half, with de Jesus providing pressure from wide, forcing turnovers close to the baseline, and Balogun forcing unproductive shots from in the paint by staying big in front of the Crimson Hawk frontcourt. IUP finished the contest shooting at just 23.4%, while Duke ended at 54.4%.
“I think the difference in the third quarter was Celeste Taylor,” Lawson said after the game. “I thought she played with an energy and disruptive presence defensively—and offensively, in transition, her speed, being able to get out and finish those layups. … I felt that set the tone and the four players out there with her kind of picked it up, and that was a pivotal part.
As the third quarter closed, it finally became unquestionably Duke’s game, and it became a question of “how” Duke would score instead of “if.” Taylor, Brown and Richardson all scored double figures, with Taylor shooting 70% from the field and draining her one three-point attempt of the afternoon. Day-Wilson was 3-for-4 from beyond the arc, which made up her nine total points from the afternoon.
Freshman Emma Koabel knocked down a three in the lingering minutes of the game, flashing three fingers in celebration, one of the first of many to come this season for Duke.
Unlike A-ha, the Blue Devils will be back in a day or two, opening their season Monday in Cameron Indoor at 11 a.m. against North Carolina A&T.
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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.