Arachnophobia, or the fear of spiders, is one of the most common fears in the world. However, Duke was anything but afraid in a 51-point rout of Richmond Sunday afternoon.
The Blue Devils defeated the Spiders 100–49 on the road at the Robins Center behind double-digit performances from Kennedy Brown, Vanessa de Jesus, Ashlon Jackson and Celeste Taylor. Duke again relied on its defense to create offense, generating 18 turnovers and holding Richmond to 30% shooting from the field, in what was the most efficient offensive performance the Blue Devils have had thus far.
The Blue Devils finished the game shooting 56.7% from the field and 47.8% from three—both season-highs. It seemed like Duke was constantly a step ahead of Richmond, whether that be in transition or making an extra pass for an easy look in the half-court.
“I was pleased with the game. I thought this was one of our more complete performances of the season,” head coach Kara Lawson said. “We talked about trying to work to pursue that, to have a game where four quarters are really solid.”
By the time the fourth quarter came around, Duke (8-1) was reaching into its bench to give lesser-known players such as freshmen Shay Bolin and Emma Koabel significant minutes. The team erupted when walk-on Bo Shaffer scored her first basket of the season, a reverse layup in the final seconds to bring the Blue Devils into triple digits. When all was said and done, 14 different players on Duke’s roster scored in a remarkably balanced output.
“We have an unselfish group, and we really preach like make the right play. Sometimes the right play is to pass it, sometimes it is to shoot it,” Lawson said.
Coming into Sunday’s matchup, both Duke and Richmond (6-3) boasted stellar defenses, averaging opponent field goal percentages of 31.6% and 35%, respectively. This trend continued early, with only one field goal being scored in the half-court during the first five minutes of the game.
In fact, it took the Spiders more than six minutes before Addie Budnik put in a three from the corner. By the end of the half, Duke had held Richmond to only 18 points on 24.1% shooting while generating nine turnovers.
Despite this statistical success, Lawson pointed to open scoring opportunities that the Blue Devils will look to limit moving forward.
“We made some growth and improvement on defense today,” Lawson said. “The reality is, you have to be tighter with everything when you get into league play. It looks like on the box score ‘Oh, they played well defensively,’ but if you really break down the tape, it could be another story.”
The Blue Devils had no such problems on the offensive end. Duke looked at its best in the halfcourt when working the ball inside out, as Brown had eight first-half points and did a great job of kicking the ball out to open shooters when double-teamed.
Brown’s play, along with the Blue Devils’ insistence to push the ball in transition, helped blow the game open by the end of the second. Duke took a 48-18 lead into halftime while shooting 64.5% from the field and making 6-of-9 3-point attempts.
“[Transition offense] was probably our key to the game,” Lawson said. “Offensively, we worked on it yesterday. When Richmond gets in their defense set, they're pretty good. So, we just talked about trying to have as few possessions as possible in that crowd and trying to have as many [points] as we could in the transition game.”
The second half began much the way the first ended, with a stop by Duke leading into a silky-smooth baseline jumper from Reigan Richardson. While Richmond began to find more success on the offensive end, nearly matching its first-half total by scoring 17 points in the first 5:30 of the second, every basket by the Spiders was met with one by the Blue Devils.
In the middle of the Richmond run, de Jesus poured in three straight triples en route to a season-high 17 points. By the time the Blue Devils seemed to settle back in defensively, the lead had opened up to 45, and, thanks to a buzzer-beater layup from none other than de Jesus, the Blue Devils went into the fourth up by 53.
“This is her third year now. So, she has a great understanding of [the game]. She's really worked on her three-point shot. So, it was nice to see her knock down some of those,” Lawson said of de Jesus. “She just knows how to play.”
The Blue Devils will look to continue Sunday’s momentum into a Thursday home matchup against Austin Peay. Duke only has two nonconference games remaining before opening ACC play against Virginia Dec. 21.
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