Then and now: How has Duke women’s basketball changed since its first game against North Carolina?

Vanessa de Jesus shoots against North Carolina Jan. 19.
Vanessa de Jesus shoots against North Carolina Jan. 19.

Before No. 11 Duke takes on No. 22 North Carolina at home Sunday, the Blue Zone takes a look at the previous contest between the two teams and previews the upcoming rematch:



When these two teams last met, the Blue Devils were 6-0 to start ACC play, their only season loss coming to a then-full-strength No. 3 UConn. Their game against North Carolina was their first in a six-game span that included four top-25 teams, and when Duke lost 61-56 at Carmichael Arena Jan. 19, it was the first of two ranked losses in that span.

Celeste Taylor, ACC Player of the Year candidate

Four days before the first installment of the Tobacco Road rivalry, Georgia Tech head coach Nell Fortner called Blue Devil combo guard Celeste Taylor an All-American and an ACC Player of the Year candidate. Taylor then committed two early fouls against the Tar Heels, leading Duke head coach Kara Lawson to bench her for most of the first half. Taylor finished with just two points on 1-of-6 shooting.

The Shy show

Point guard Shayeann Day-Wilson had scored more than 12 points just once this season before the Blue Devils traveled to Chapel Hill. Then she put up 24 points against North Carolina on 7-of-11 shooting, and Lawson said after the game, “It’s good to see that she was able to [have a good offensive night]. And hopefully that gives her more confidence, because she is a big scoring threat when she’s aggressive.” Day-Wilson’s season-high kicked off a five-game span in which she averaged 17 points on 70.3% true-shooting, per CBB Analytics.


A (slightly) more balanced attack

Heading into their loss to North Carolina, Taylor had been the Blue Devils’ leading scorer in four of their last five games (combo forward Elizabeth Balogun led the team in its New Year’s Day win against Louisville). The 10 games since have featured four different leading scorers — Day-Wilson, Taylor, off-ball guard Reigan Richardson and Balogun — which isn’t that many, but is still a more balanced effort than what Duke had going for it in Chapel Hill last month. The Blue Devils are far from a standout offensive group, but they’ve found an ability to hunt opponents’ defensive weaknesses in a way they didn’t have last month.

The more things change, the more they stay the same

Had Duke and North Carolina met a week ago, the Tar Heels would be missing two starters: combo forward Alyssa Ustby and point guard Eva Hogdson, probably their best player and definitely their best shooter, respectively. Without those two, North Carolina’s offensive rating dropped from the 74th percentile to the 40th, its 3-point shooting dropped by over five percentage points and it took nearly 3.5 fewer free-throws per game, per CBB Analytics. Considering that Ustby is the Tar Heels’ only player who consistently creates rim pressure (no other North Carolina non-center is close to NCAA average in rim rate, per CBB Analytics) and Hodgson is their only quality shooter (the only other Tar Heel above 32.0% from deep is a redshirt freshman who’s played in eight games), Duke’s defensive gameplan should include the same names as it did last time.

Getting it over with

The Blue Devils’ loss in Chapel Hill was the ninth-straight time a Duke game had hit the under on Her Hoop Stats’ projections, a streak that would stretch all the way to 18 before they finally hit the over this past Thursday against NC State. That was the first time the Blue Devils had multiple 20-point quarters in a game since their Jan. 26 home win against now-No. 9 Virginia Tech — and they did it with Shayeann Day-Wilson being the least-efficient scorer in the starting lineup. Per Her Hoops Stats, the 11-point win against the Wolfpack was Duke’s highest offensive rating since Dec. 11.


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