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Commanding first half propels Duke women's basketball to lopsided win at Richmond

Duke raced past Richmond on the road, scoring 100 points in its eighth win of the season.
Duke raced past Richmond on the road, scoring 100 points in its eighth win of the season.

For any coach, a strong start is a dream, a comfortable cushion to rely on as chaos ensues later in the game. For Duke, its first-half start against Richmond was not just strong, it was dominant. 

Taking advantage of an excellent first-half performance, Duke topped Richmond 100-49 Sunday afternoon on the road. Moving to 8-1, the victory marked the second-highest point total of the Blue Devils’ season, falling shy of only their 111-point tally against Charleston Southern. 

In the first half, it seemed as if the Blue Devils could not miss. The team shot 20-of-31 from the field, including 6-of-9 from three, for one of its most efficient offensive halves of the year. At the halftime interval, Celeste Taylor led Duke in scoring with 10 points; however, even more impressive was that all 10 Blue Devils who stepped on the hardwood scored. 

“We were making the right play and all of our players have confidence in each other,” head coach Kara Lawson said. “I think it just speaks more to their character than anything.”

Taylor led the show offensively for Duke, as she often does, but Jordyn Oliver’s defensive presence cannot be understated. Coming off of the bench, Oliver forced two first-half turnovers and forced Richmond’s forwards into tough shots. 

Holding the Spiders to 7-of-29 from the field in the first half, Duke’s pressure again paid dividends. On the first baseline inbound for Richmond, Duke forced a five-second violation, and its full-court defense did not let up all half long. The squad forced Richmond into nine first-half turnovers, scoring 15 points off of the Spiders’ mistakes. 

In the second quarter alone, Duke missed just three shots, shooting a scorching 81.3% from the field and 83.3% from three. With continued dominant defense, the Blue Devils shot out to a 12-0 run to stretch the lead to 29-7 midway through the second. 

“In preseason and in practices, I felt like we’d be a solid 3-point shooting team,” Lawson said. “Then we got the games and we couldn't make anything. Hopefully today is the start of us being more consistent from out there.”

Further, in the paint the Blue Devils owned the Spiders, perhaps exemplified through back-to-back blocks on the inside from Elizabeth Balogun and Kennedy Brown right in front of an electrified Duke bench. 

“I thought we made some improvement defensively today,” Lawson said. “We did get a little bit better.”

Through efficient offense and relentless defense, Duke took a 48-18 lead with it to the locker room to end the first half. 

To open the second half, Duke did not let off of the gas, shooting 13-of-20 from the field in the third. Midway through the quarter, it was the Vanessa de Jesus show, as the junior guard poured in three straight triples and made a couple of diving defensive plays, en route to a 43-point lead to end the quarter. 

De Jesus finished with 17 points, two assists and four rebounds in one of her best games as a Duke guard. 

“I know what I'm gonna get from Vanessa,” Lawson said. “Man, she's worked this offseason, she worked. She comes in early, she stays late.”

Sunday afternoon’s performance marks one of the best of the season for the experienced Blue Devils. From the opening tip, Richmond was physically and skillfully outmatched, allowing a deep Duke bench to gain more in-game experience as the game wound to a close. 

With the game under control by halftime, Lawson was able to rest some of her key starters, paving the way for role players to take charge. However, the start of the second half proved to be a defensive drop-off, as Richmond scored 17 points in the third quarter. 

“All my players are capable of playing the defense we need,” Lawson said. “Every rep is valuable for every player that's out there.” 

If Duke can string together first-half performances like it did Sunday afternoon, it will be a tough team to break down on either side of the ball. As the team enters December, the Blue Devils now know the importance of coming out of the gates hot in order to make noise in a difficult ACC schedule. 

Next, Duke returns home Thursday to face off against Austin Peay.


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