Duke women's basketball impresses offensively in shootout win against Boston College to open home ACC play

Taina Mair flicks the ball to a teammate during Duke's win against Florida Gulf Coast.
Taina Mair flicks the ball to a teammate during Duke's win against Florida Gulf Coast.

Last season, Duke put up one of its best performances of the season in Chestnut Hill, Mass., holding Boston College to 27 points. This year, the Eagles put together a far superior performance, but the end result was the same.

“We have a lot that we need to clean up, but the name of the game in ACC play is winning and the games are going to be ugly no matter what it is going to be. You have to find a way to win and that’s what I told them after, ‘Hey congrats on your first ACC win and way to figure it out when we weren’t playing our best,’ so I’m proud of the group for that,” head coach Kara Lawson said.

Duke ended the calendar year on a high note, taking down Boston College in its ACC home opener 80-75 in one of its best offensive performances of the young season. Head coach Kara Lawson’s team is usually known for its stifling defense, but it shined on both ends of the court Sunday, holding the Eagles to 37% shooting while going 64% from the field themselves, including a 57% mark from beyond the arc. 

Sophomore guard Taina Mair came to Durham after an impressive freshman year at Boston College, and she made sure to let her former team know what they were missing out on this New Year’s Eve. The sophomore guard led the game in scoring, going for 21 points on 7-of-12 shooting and 3-of-4 from downtown to propel her new squad to a victory. 

“Yeah, we just needed some momentum and I just hit some really great shots and that got us going,” Mair said. 

Freshman Oluchi Okananwa also continued her impressive freshman season, scoring 16 points on 6-for-9 shooting and pulling down six rebounds, which tied for a team high. Reigan Richardson and Ashlon Jackson were the other two Blue Devils to reach double digits, putting up 13 and 12 respectively. 

With the teams only being separated by five points heading into the fourth quarter, the visitors saw their chance to strike, opening with a 3-pointer followed by a layup from Andrea Daley, who had a spectacular day with 18 points, to cut the lead to two. But while hanging on the ropes, the Blue Devils (9-4, 1-1 in the ACC) found a second wind, going on a seven-point run headlined by a fast-break layup through contact by Richardson to give Duke a lead it would never surrender, as the defense showed up down the stretch to hold the Eagles (8-6, 0-1) to only four makes on its last 22 shots. 

This one turned into a heavyweight boxing match in the second half, with each team getting to the basket at will and exchanging punches. Entering the media timeout midway through the period, Duke showed some signs of pulling away as it was on a 6-0 run after layups from Okananwa and Mair, two of the Blue Devils' 12 makes out of their last 16 shots at that point. As Duke fans have gotten used to under Lawson, the home team played with relentless effort even into the later stages of the game, fighting for loose balls and pulling down crucial offensive rebounds that helped it keep the Eagles at bay and head into the final quarter up 64-59. 

The teams both came out of the gates hot, with Teya Sidberry hitting a nice hook shot over Kennedy Brown on Boston College’s first possession. On Duke’s first go-round, Jackson found Richardson on a skip pass from the corner for an open three and the first points of the game for the Blue Devils. But from there, Lawson’s team went cold, with the Eagles capitalizing off six turnovers in the first three minutes of the game to build an early lead over the home team.

The visitors continued their hot start deep into the first quarter, starting the contest 7-for-9 from the field and getting easy buckets on the usually stout Duke defense, seemingly making it tough for a Blue Devil team that is still searching for an offensive identity to keep up. Despite that, Lawson’s group put up one of its best offensive showings of the season in the first period, shooting 69.2% from the field and leaving the first 10 minutes with a slim 23-22 deficit despite turning the ball over eight times.

“As far as taking care of the ball, we have too many careless possessions and we have to try to eliminate those. We’ve talked about those as a group trying to cut down on the unforced errors and then within the offense, we have a young team and sometimes we’re not in the right places where we’re supposed to be and that results in turnovers,” Lawson said.

The track race continued into the second quarter, with both teams looking to push the ball and try to score in transition. While this approach did turn into points in spurts, it also left the squads vulnerable to turnovers, as there were 11 giveaways in the second quarter alone. The Blue Devils were still able to operate an excellent offense, using a balanced approach in the first half, with four players scoring at least six and Mair leading the charge at the break with 13 as Duke held a 47-43 lead shooting 71.4% from the field, its best mark since 2013. 

The Blue Devils will open the new year on the road at Louisville Thursday. 


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