Despite Duke women's basketball's control of Coppin State, inconsistency deprives it of milestone moment

Ashlon Jackson leaps to block a shot during Duke's matchup with Toledo.
Ashlon Jackson leaps to block a shot during Duke's matchup with Toledo.

After one-hour-forty-seven minutes in Cameron Indoor Stadium Thursday night, Duke head coach Kara Lawson shook the hand of Coppin State head coach Jermaine Woods. The Blue Devils had defeated the Eagles 68-34, and only one question lingered.

What will this game be remembered for?

Off the bat, evaluating this tussle requires some background information. Coppin State ranks 286th in the nation out of 360 teams, according to NCAA NET rankings. For further context, the Golden Eagles are averaging a scoring margin of -12.9 points per game. At its best, Coppin State found a way to upset 170th-ranked Pittsburgh on the road 61-56, and at its worst it lost to both No. 6 LSU and 84th-ranked George Mason, each by 32. The Eagles only have four players 6-foot or above, the tallest clocking in at 6-foot-2, and rank 327th in rebounding margin. 

In summary: Coppin State is near the bottom of the country in nearly every basketball statistic, and it does not help that it is on the smaller side, either.

Duke was not challenged by any stretch of the imagination in the first half. Junior Reigan Richardson started hot, scoring 10 of the first 15 Duke points on 3-of-5 shooting. Freshman forward Delaney Thomas shot a perfect 3-of-3 from the floor, and even freshman forward Jordan Wood, averaging 7.4 minutes per contest, saw quality first-half floortime and scored two first-half buckets. After sophomore Ashlon Jackson shimmied her way through three Coppin State defenders for an uncontested layup, the cameras cut to her laughing on the way back down the floor. 

The defense was even better. The Blue Devils forced 12 opponent turnovers, six of which were steals, and held Coppin State to a lowly 4-for-23 clip from the floor. Duke scored 15 points off turnovers and outrebounded the visitors 25-9. In total, the Blue Devils held Coppin State to nine first-half points, the fourth-lowest total in Duke history, and were on pace to break their fewest points allowed record at 24. 

The Blue Devils had complete and utter control of the Golden Eagles.

And yet, in the second half, their discipline seemed to falter. The inconsistency that has defined Duke’s season game-to-game this time reared its ugly head. 

On the offensive end, Duke’s shot selection deteriorated. The Blue Devils only shot 33.3% from the floor, and a dismal 16.7% from 3-point range. In fact, Coppin State shot better in the second half than Duke did, scoring at a 35.5% clip. While Duke grabbed 25 rebounds once again, it allowed the Golden Eagles to secure 17 of their own, a drastic increase from the first half. The shift in energy culminated when Coppin State, led by junior Laila Lawrence, went on an 11-0 run over a 3:49 span in the fourth quarter. Fellow junior Faith Blackstone also found success, scoring 12 points on 6-of-10 shooting working inside against Kennedy Brown and Camilla Emsbo. It took a 13-2 Duke run in the last 3:44 of the game to prevent Coppin State from winning the fourth quarter. 

With 4:03 remaining in the third quarter, Duke led 47-11. With 3:44 remaining in the fourth quarter, the Blue Devils led 55-32. In that span of over a quarter of basketball, Duke was outscored 21-8 by one of the weakest teams in women’s college basketball. This mental lapse may destroy some good feelings about the win, or the positive implications that can be drawn from its performance.

“The second half was poor,” said Lawson after the game. “That’s my biggest concern moving forward, is do we play at a high enough level that we can win games in our league.” 

The game against Coppin State will likely not be remembered for Duke’s first-half heroics. It will likely not be remembered for the fact that with 4:50 remaining in the second quarter, Duke up 20-3, Coppin State had more shot clock violations than they did points. It will likely not be remembered for the fact that freshman guard Oluchi Okananwa secured a game-high eight rebounds. 

The Blue Devils’ inconsistency deprived them of a historical moment for the program, and turned what could’ve been a statement victory into a more forgettable tuneup that will not ring as important as soon as the ball tips on New Years Eve against Boston College. 


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