Intensity. Pressure. Dominance.
Those are the words that could all be used to describe Duke’s Thursday night matchup against Coastal Carolina. In a game that unfolded with relentless energy on both ends of the court, the Blue Devils emerged victorious, securing a deafening 88-42 win against the Chanticleers at Cameron Indoor Stadium behind those three characteristics.
From the initial tipoff, Duke imposed a suffocating defensive pressure that left Coastal Carolina struggling to execute even the most routine plays. Inbounding the ball became a nerve-wracking task for the opposition, as the Blue Devils’ defense forced the Chanticleers into an astonishing 30 turnovers and converted those mistakes into its own scoring opportunities.
Camilla Emsbo, a towering 6-foot-5 forward, played the role of a defensive wall, leading the team in blocks with an impressive four rejections, while Jordan Wood showcased her lightning-quick hands and willingness to sacrifice her body to gain possession in her four steals. Duke was able to capitalize on these efforts, scoring 34 points from turnovers.
The defensive onslaught wasn't without its challenges, though, with Duke accumulating a total of 22 fouls. The first half saw a particularly aggressive, and oftentimes sloppy, approach that culminated in 15 personal fouls and Coastal Carolina’s ability to punish the Blue Devils by draining eight free throws.
“I thought we just kind of helped them score there in that first half,” head coach Kara Lawson said after the game. “Because of our fouling, they were having a hard time scoring against our defense, and then we started putting them to the line.”
However, the halftime break saw a mental recalibration, with Duke managing to curtail the fouls to a more manageable seven in the second half. This adjustment demonstrated the team's adaptability and ability to maintain a high-pressure defensive strategy while mitigating unnecessary fouls.
“Every game has the ability to take you on a roller coaster of emotions individually as a player, because you might play well for three minutes and you might play poorly, you might pick up two fouls, and then you have to sit the bench the rest of the half, like there's so many things that can go on,” Lawson said. “So throughout the course of the game, we just talked with our players about trying to stay as even as possible, because the game is going to have ups and downs.”
The Blue Devils’ unrelenting nature was also displayed on the offensive end of the court. Both Emsbo tallied two offensive rebounds, Delaney thomas had three and freshman Jadyn Donovan grabbed six, contributing to 20 second-chance points for the team. But, the 3-point line was where the Blue Devils truly made their mark, setting a new record with 14 successful shots sunk from deep.
Each 3-pointer wasn't just a score; it was a testament to Duke's ability to exploit Coastal Carolina’s defensive gaps quickly in transition and its early signs of improvement in its offensive play following a season of hard-fought but low-scoring games in 2022-23. All of sophomore Emma Koabel’s 12 points came from the three, and six of the Blue Devils’ 10 players scored at least one 3-pointer, showcasing the team's clear depth in that area.
As a whole, Duke’s precision was nothing short of remarkable. A 47.1% field shooting percentage underscored its ability to convert opportunities with clinical efficiency. Sophomore guard Ashlon Jackson in particular had her way with the Chanticleers’ defense, shooting 10-for-17 from the floor and 5-of-11 from beyond the arc, tallying a career-high 25 points in the process.
On both sides of the ball, the Blue Devils didn't give up for a moment Thursday night, and displayed a unique ability to sustain intensity both mentally and physically. From the moment Kennedy Brown drained her first bucket in the first minute, her team led until the final buzzer. When that buzzer arrived, it wasn't just about the win; it was about making a statement — a statement that Duke could turn its intensity into a strategic advantage, its pressure into precision and its dominance into a spectacle.
“It just goes to show our potential,” Jackson said. “Whenever we get everything cleaned up. Obviously not every game is going to be perfect, but whenever we get everything cleaned up, it just shows you what we can do.”
Get The Chronicle straight to your inbox
Signup for our weekly newsletter. Cancel at any time.