'Energy wasn't great': In loss at Miami, Duke women's basketball reckons with consequences of wasteful possessions

Kennedy Brown holds the ball up during Duke's loss against N.C. State.
Kennedy Brown holds the ball up during Duke's loss against N.C. State.

CORAL GABLES, Fla.—Trapped in the eye of the Hurricane, Duke had the chance to pull out an unlikely road victory Sunday afternoon. Instead, it drowned itself in its own turnovers, poor shot selection and lack of defensive aggression. 

After putting together their most complete performance of the season Thursday night against No. 23 Florida State, thrashing the Seminoles by 42, the Blue Devils’ continuous miscues and lackluster energy doomed them to a 64-58 loss against Miami. The inconsistency reveals a necessary and pressing area for improvement if it wishes to be a postseason contender in March.

“The energy wasn’t great today … from all the players who played today,” said Duke head coach Kara Lawson. “We need to improve on that.”

Duke’s woes began with its shot selection. The Blue Devils finished the game shooting 40% from the field, compared to 53% in their effort against Florida State. Their second-quarter offensive performance was nothing short of momentum-crushing. Entering the quarter up one, Duke shot a dismal 21.4% from the field and 1-of-6 from beyond the arc. In fact, the Blue Devils scored only two points for nearly eight-and-a-half minutes. Miami took advantage of their woes, storming into the locker room with a 10-point halftime lead which they never relinquished. 

Duke’s shooting problems from deep continued in the second half, where they continued to chuck despite their troubles. The Blue Devils finished the game 4-for-19, including one attempt in the fourth quarter where Miami’s Jaida Patrick fought through a screen to swat an Oluchi Okananwa attempt.

“We only made four [three pointers],” Lawson said. “And I thought that was one of the differences in the game.”

The Blue Devils also turned the ball over 18 times, and did so in crushing waves. In a 1:02 stretch, two turnovers and a blocked shot led to two buckets and one 3-pointer, a seven-point swing that flung the Hurricanes out in front. And just when a 9-2 run gave Duke the ball with 33 seconds left, down three, and a chance to tie the game, Okananwa traveled, ending the contest.

“I thought we got loose with the ball,” Lawson said. “And I thought that kind of ignited their break.”

Duke lacked defensive energy on the perimeter all throughout as well. The Hurricanes initially tried to find success in the paint, working off the screen and attacking the basket. However, Duke’s size and agility allowed them to crash the paint, limiting Miami to a rate of 5-of-12 on layups. Miami head coach Katie Meier adjusted, and the team found its offensive spark in the pick-and-pop game. The Hurricanes made Duke pay for not fighting through their screens and closing out all game long, converting 10 of 24 tries from beyond the arc. Former Blue Devil Shayeann Day-Wilson dominated her old team, finishing with a game-high 17 points, and converted more threes than the entire Duke squad combined. 

“She made threes,” Lawson said of her former player. “And that was a big thing.”

After suffering the loss, Duke now will continue the road trip against Pittsburgh Thursday night. As the ACC games come and go, the Blue Devils have to find some more consistency in order to put themselves on the map as a postseason threat.

“You have to be able to play hard and with great effort, but you also have to be able to play with intelligence,” Lawson said. “Our group, we kind of go in and out of those things.”


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