Beats' picks: Can Duke women's basketball pull off the upset against No. 1 South Carolina at home?

Ashlon Jackson drives to the rim under pressure during Duke's loss to Davidson.
Ashlon Jackson drives to the rim under pressure during Duke's loss to Davidson.

Coming off a road victory against Georgia Thursday night, Duke returns to Cameron Indoor Stadium Sunday afternoon to take on what might be its most formidable opponent yet: No. 1 South Carolina. The Chronicle’s womens’ basketball beat writers are here with their predictions for the marquee matchup:

Caleb Dudley: South Carolina 79-48

Duke has played solid basketball as of late, knocking off Georgia in the ACC/SEC challenge, while also taking No. 3 Stanford to the wire in Palo Alto, Calif. However, South Carolina is a whole different beast, and I do not foresee the Blue Devils even having a chance against the best team in the nation, in my opinion. Head coach Kara Lawson’s team struggles to score as is, and I doubt this will change against a team allowing 50.3 points per game to its opponents.

Martin Heintzelman: South Carolina 68-44

This one is going to be rough. Head coach Dawn Staley’s Gamecocks are by most measures the best team in the country, while Duke has endured an inconsistent start to its year. Despite that, the Blue Devils have demonstrated their ability to play with good teams. Duke held its own against Stanford, sending the game into overtime despite a career game from Cameron Brink. With all that in mind, I think it is entirely feasible that we find this one relatively close at the end of the first half. But the simple reality is that I would pick South Carolina over every team in the country right now, and by double digits in most cases. Even if the Blue Devils can keep it close through 20 minutes, this is going to be a beatdown by the end of four quarters. Look for big nights from the usual suspects: center Kamilla Cardoso and guard Te-Hina Paopao.

Luke Jovanovic: South Carolina 90-55

Although Kara Lawson and the Blue Devils pride themselves on their defensive prowess, Duke will be vastly overpowered by the No. 1 team in the country. The Gamecocks have five players averaging double-digit points per game, and score 94.5 per game as a team. Cardoso will pose a major challenge to the Duke duo of Camilla Emsbo and Kennedy Brown, as the Montes Claros, Brazil, native is averaging a 15-point, nearly 12-rebound double-double per game. South Carolina also has the ninth-ranked scoring defense in the country, a troubling prospect considering Duke runs the 55th ranked offense in the nation.  

Lilah Gorfain: South Carolina 82-60

I think it's pretty safe to say that when matched up with the No. 1 team in the country, Duke doesn’t really stand much of a chance. While the Blue Devils are no doubt an effective squad, boasting 77.6 points per game alongside their recent beatdown of N.C. Central and nail-biting performance against the Cardinal, this matchup is a completely different beast. Early into the game, I expect Duke’s defensive skill set will propel it just enough to keep up with South Carolina — but the Blue Devils will eventually exhaust themselves against the Gamecocks’ offensive engine.

Riya Khatod: South Carolina 85-60

Despite Duke's recent commendable performances, a commanding victory against the Eagles and a narrow win against the Bulldogs, the challenge of facing the top-ranked Gamecocks is a daunting one. South Carolina has a powerhouse squad with an impressive track record offensively, and one just as impressive on the other side of the ball. Even the Blue Devils’ notorious defensive prowess and home-court advantage will be unable to hold the Gamecocks’ trio of Cardoso, Paopao and MiLaysia Fulwiley to a winnable scoreline.

Ryan Hamner: Duke 78-75

It’s never easy playing a top team, especially South Carolina women’s basketball. The Gamecocks are firing on all cylinders again this year, and Staley is building a dynasty in Columbia, S.C. But I have faith in Lawson and a Blue Devil team that is trending in the right direction. While they have been plagued by offensive woes and a lack of consistent focus so far this year, it’s only a matter of time before things finally click. Duke has been playing to the level of its opponents, and with stout defense, consistent hustle and taking the final step to an efficient offense as well, I see the Blue Devils leaving Cameron Indoor with a close victory and massive upset.

Colton Schwabe: South Carolina 82-68

South Carolina comes to Cameron Indoor following a hopeful two-game stretch from Duke who beat N.C. Central by almost 50 points before traveling to Athens, Ga., to outlast the Bulldogs in overtime. The streak followed a tight overtime loss at Stanford that they very possibly could have won. This season, the Blue Devils have found the most success in games where they are hot from beyond the arc; the team shot above 40% from three in its recent win against Georgia and close loss to Stanford. If the shots are falling for Duke and South Carolina's dominant offense is limited, the Gamecocks' progress may be slowed from pulling away too far from the Blue Devils. While Duke has proven that it can play effective basketball, it will take a miracle to pull the upset.

Elle Chavis: South Carolina 58-42

Even though the Blue Devils have played impressively well in their last three games, going up against Staley and the top-ranked Gamecocks is a whole other challenge. This match will be a true test for a Duke team that has all the pieces to succeed. The Blue Devils’ dominant defense will provide a challenge for a South Carolina team used to absolutely demolishing its opponents. Expect a low-scoring affair and a far closer score than the blowout matches the Gamecocks are used to. Still, at the end of the day, the more experienced, offensively sound visitors will pull away from the Blue Devils and continue on their undefeated season. 

Franck Djidjeu: South Carolina 73-55

The Gamecocks come into Durham already battle tested with three ranked wins by a combined 74 points. Their status as the premier team has certainly been well earned and it will take the Blue Devils’ absolute best to keep this game close. Duke has, however, shown flashes of excellence. Its defense, physicality, and Lawson’s coaching will allow the home team to stay in it, but South Carolina will eventually pull away due to its electric offense and superior size.

Garrett Spooner: South Carolina 78-59

Leading the team in scoring with 13.0 points per game, sophomore guard Ashlon Jackson has been a superstar for this Blue Devil roster. In order to keep this game tight, she will need to play like one of the best guards in the country, especially as the Gamecocks bring a loaded roster to Cameron Indoor. Expect South Carolina to bring the fight to the Blue Devils early. The Gamecocks’ depth will prove too much for Duke, even with the squad desperate for a signature win in Lawson’s fourth season at the helm and plenty of early season promise.  


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