Once Duke tasted the lead, it never put its fork down.
Led by double-point scoring efforts from Ashlon Jackson, Taina Mair, Kennedy Brown, Delaney Thomas, and Camilla Emsbo, a sufficient 53.0% field goal percentage in tandem with a suffocating defensive performance proved to be too much for Cameron Indoor Stadium’s Sunshine State visitors to handle. By game’s end, the Blue Devils had stomped No. 23 Florida State to the tune of a 88-46 hammering Thursday evening.
“It was one of our most complete performances of the season, maybe our most complete,” said head coach Kara Lawson after the game. “On the glass, we were dominant. Defensively, we were sharp with attention to detail. And then, offensively, we had contributions from a lot of different players … And it was nice to see a bounce-back win for our team.”
The Blue Devils (13-6, 5-3 in the ACC) entered the halftime break after limiting Florida State (14-7, 5-4) to 22 points – the lowest scoring half for the Seminoles all season.
Something felt especially smooth about Duke’s offensive performance. The penetration from the Blue Devil guards could be turned into open layups for Delaney Thomas and Kennedy Brown down low. Additional drives were turned into triples from Ashlon Jackson and Taina Mair’s dependable sharpshooting. At one point in the second half, even Brown stepped behind the arc to try from three and buried it.
The fast-paced offense of Jadyn Donovan opened the scoring for the Blue Devils. Donovan’s two quick layups to kickstart the match followed her subpar six-point performance last game out against N.C. State. From there, free throws from Thomas and Mair got Duke into an offensive rhythm.
Closed out by Jackson’s prayer of a three-quarter-court bank shot to put Duke up by seven as the buzzer sounded, the first quarter ended with the Blue Devils on a roll. Additionally, senior center Brown earned four blocks in the first frame alone, eliminating all forms of internal scoring from the Seminoles while earning the school’s single quarter block record.
“[Brown] sets the tone for our defense every single day,” Lawson said. “She's one of the best defenders in the country. And that statement might surprise a lot of people because she doesn't have these defensive highlights. She's as technically sound of a defender as any player that I've coached. She's in the right position and she's highly intelligent. She understands the scheme, and has been a great leader for us on the defensive end.”
Duke was able to continue its momentum into the second. From Donovan’s fast-break steals and Mair’s triples to Thomas’ and-one conversions, Lawson's squad would not take its foot off the gas. The Blue Devils ultimately ended the first half shooting an effective 44.1% from the field. Jackson only missed a single shot in the first two quarters and scored 10 points in the process. Her impressive half showed direct contrast to her detrimental 0-for-8 shooting performance last game in Raleigh, a contrast that also represented the difference between the entire team’s performances against No. 4 N.C. State and No. 23 Florida State.
The Seminoles dropped eight places in the AP poll this week after losses to Syracuse and unranked Virginia, but head coach Brooke Wyckoff’s team has certainly played in the upper echelon of college basketball this season, earning ranked wins against Virginia Tech and North Carolina. Limiting Florida State to just over 20 points in the first half would be a difficult task for any defense.
“We emphasize defense to add to preparation for this game. We know they're a high scoring team and they were going to keep coming at us no matter what the score was. We just made sure that we were always in our spots, and we just continued to communicate with each other to be in our spots on defense live.” said Mair.
And just when it seemed that Duke’s backcourt was operating at maximum power, the second half of basketball outshone the first. The Blue Devils held their opponent to only six points in the first quarter and its offense never faltered. Brown didn’t miss a shot all second half, and Duke shot upwards of 62.5% from the field. The highs somehow rose higher Florida State fell hard.
The game held additional significance beyond the historical victory, as the Duke coaching staff wore purple in honor of Lawson’s late Tennessee coach Pat Summitt and Summitt’s foundation, which works to advance research for Alzheimer’s Disease.
“[Pat Summitt] continues to be the most impactful coach that I've had and the person that I have taken the most from, even though I've played for a lot of great coaches. How we play, how we run things, and what our standards are all comes from her. It's nice to honor her memory.” said Lawson.
It was certainly a performance worthy of the all-time great. The Blue Devils will travel to Coral Gables, Fla., Sunday hoping to continue that form against Miami.
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