All streaks must come to an end.
The newly ranked #3 team in the country Duke women’s basketball team had won seven straight meetings over rival North Carolina. The Tarheels, losers of three straight, had not won at Cameron Indoor Stadium since February 4, 2008. That all changed tonight as the two teams met as part of ESPN’s Rivalry Week.
It was more of the same for the Blue Devils defense: it was lacking. UNC took (and made) plenty of open three pointers (they made a total of 12 of them). They broke every type of press Duke threw at them by pretty much running circles around the slower Blue Devils (it doesn’t help that Duke only played two players off the bench and only one played sparingly in the second half. The Tarheels shot 51.5% from the field.
The one thing the Duke defense did well was force turnovers: 22 of them. Eighteen of the turnovers came from the starters. They also had 11 steals. However, the Duke offense was also sloppy, committing 20 of them.
Duke did come back multiple times to cut the deficit to one and two points, but then UNC would go on another run to expand the lead to seven or nine points. Duke’s first run came to open the second half (they were down 45-36 at halftime), when they came out on fire (11-3). However, the Tarheels then went on an 8-0 run.
Duke had no answer for UNC freshman Diamond DeShields. Despite picking up two fouls over the first five minutes of the first half, Duke did not go at her to force her out of the game. She made them pay by scoring a career-high 30 points on 12-of-20 shooting (many of her three pointers came without a hand in her face). Fellow freshman Allisha Gray was also left open too many times. She had three three-point plays in the game’s final eight minutes. She made 8-of-19 shots for 24 points. Gray also hauled in ten rebounds.
Sophomore Xylina McDaniel chipped in 17 points and five rebounds despite also having two fouls with 14:10 to go in the first half. Those three regularly killed the Blue Devils when they made a run to make the game close.
Elizabeth Williams has gone through a stretch of uninspired play of late, but tonight was different. She was intense and assertive from the opening tip (though she still missed some inside shots) and clearly wanted the ball on every possession. Williams scored 28 points and hauled in seven rebounds. She also blocked five shots.
With zero guard play off the bench (senior Chelsea Gray is done for her career and fellow senior Chloe Wells has been out with a shin bruise for seven games now), Tricia Liston and Alexis Jones are forced to play just about every minute. Both have struggled with their shots. Liston did score 20 points, but only made 7-of-16 shots. Jones scored 11 of her 15 points in the second half (5-of-10 from the field) and recorded a double-double with 11 assists. However, she committed five turnovers.
Haley Peters was non-existent in the loss: she did not score (she averages 12 points a game). She did haul in seven rebounds.
Oderah Chidom did score six points off the bench and had some hustle plays in the first half, but barely played in the second half. She has some work to do around the basket and from the free throw line.
Duke did barely out-rebound UNC, 40-39, but 20-14 from the offensive end. Unfortunately, they could not put the o-board in the basket (they only made 30 total shots).
I can only imagine what the next week’s worth of practice will be like for Duke (regardless of the incoming snow). The Blue Devils are off until next Monday night when they host #8 Maryland and reigning ACC Player of the Year Alyssa Thomas. Duke will drop in the rankings and will be closer to the bottom half of the top ten when the two teams meet.