The Hurricanes brought the rain to Cameron Indoor Stadium on a gloomy Sunday, but the Blue Devils brought the thunder.
No. 9 Duke hosted Miami on an afternoon that ended 50-40 in the Blue Devils’ favor. Though the Hurricanes entered the matchup tied for third in the ACC and were aggressive on offense, they struggled against Duke and its conference-leading defense.
“I feel like I aged 10 years in that second half, so I credit Miami. They just kept fighting and kept cutting into the deficit,” head coach Kara Lawson said after the game. “Offensively, we really struggled to finish layups and free throws and the bottom fell out of our offense there in that fourth quarter. But with that said, our team just continued to play hard defensively, and we were good enough on that end to secure the win.”
The fourth quarter featured a scoring drought of longer than five minutes that left the score standstill at 49-36. While Miami made a dent in the score to increase the score to 49-40, the Blue Devils never made another shot, with just a free throw added into the final score. Though Duke (22-3, 12-2 in the ACC) won the game, the Hurricanes (16-9, 9-5) won the second half 27-18.
“I thought they got a little more aggressive and more disruptive. Things were hard for us. They limited us to one shot,” Lawson said about the fourth quarter. “I thought they were physical with us and we turned it over a little bit in that stretch, too.”
Arguably the loudest screams from the 2,449 fans in the crowd were those that ended the first half, as sophomore guard Shayeann Day-Wilson made a 3-pointer with the halftime buzzer sounding. With a 32-13 advantage going into the second half, Duke improved upon the 32-14 lead it had going into halftime against Boston College, which it eventually beat 68-27.
Though it looked in the first half Sunday like Duke could potentially limit the visitors to a second 13-point half, when the Hurricanes returned from the locker room, they proved that thinking to be wrong. Within the first four minutes, Miami scored more than it had in either quarter, getting 10 points off of a Lola Pendande layup, a Haley Cavinder 3-pointer and back-to-back scores from Jasmyne Roberts—a jumper and a three.
“We weren’t in tune offensively,” said Lawson. “We were turning down good shots and then trying to drive in there and take challenged shots.”
Though the Blue Devils did not win the opening tipoff, within the game’s first 40 seconds, they led Miami by two. Junior center Kennedy Brown grabbed a defensive rebound that quickly turned into a 3-pointer from sophomore guard Reigan Richardson, assisted by junior guard Vanessa de Jesus.
Moments after Richardson’s three, Miami set up and made a layup of its own from Ja’Leah Williams to even the score at 3-3. Yet, the Blue Devils were just getting started. Richardson followed up her first score with a layup, Taylor got a 3-pointer and a free throw from senior forward Mia Heide plus a jumper from senior guard Elizabeth Balogun extended the lead to six.
That was before Day-Wilson stormed down the court off her own defensive rebound. Determination and speed were two things most evident in the sophomore guard’s facial expression as she drained a jumper to extend the Blue Devil lead to eight and the stadium erupted.
The second quarter began slowly with a 4-2 Blue Devil run. However, things kicked up after both teams scored in succession. Pendande added a jumper before Balogun passed to Brown to add one for Duke. Eventually, the scoring picked up on both sides, as Brown added two additional scores before grabbing a rebound with 5:23 left in the quarter. She eventually found de Jesus, who picked up her fourth of five assists as a Richardson jumper gave the Blue Devils a 12-point lead.
Roberts closed in on the lead with a jumper to make the score 23-13 with 4:25 left in the half, but the next minute went scoreless before the Blue Devils turned a turnover into a Balogun layup to get back to their 12-point lead. Not long after, Taylor hit a jumper to extend it to 14.
With Day-Wilson at the top of the arc and the rest of the Blue Devils holding their ground on the interior, the team restricted the Hurricanes’ offense. Ahead of the game, Cavinder ranked 18th in the ACC in scoring average per game, at 12.8 points per contest, but due to Duke’s defense, she was held to just 1-of-5 shooting in the first half, and had to make it up with eight points in the second half.
“If you’re turning the ball over a lot, now they’re running at you, and it’s hard to get your defense set,” Lawson said. “I think they forced 18 [turnovers per game] coming into this matchup. I was really pleased with our ball security today that limited some of their transition opportunities that they normally get.”
The Blue Devils return to action Thursday night at 7 p.m. in Blacksburg, Va., against Virginia Tech.
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