DURHAM, N.C. – The Duke Blue Devils women’s basketball team jumped back into the national spotlight when they knocked off the third-ranked South Carolina Gamecocks 74-63 at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Sunday.
Led by guard Rebecca Greenwell’s 29 points, three rebounds, and three steals, the Blue Devils’ 50-percent shooting performance topped the Gamecocks’ season-low 42-percent output.
Clutch scoring throughout the game from forward Oderah Chidom (15 points, 8 rebounds) and guard Kyra Lambert (10 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists) helped Duke (9-1) hand South Carolina (6-1) its first loss of the season.
“They have very good post players and they’re very tall and strong and what not, and I just think we learned a little bit about our interior defense and the things that we can do and grow from,” Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie said.
“I think we did a pretty good job with the guards, as well, but for the most part, just a good team, a game to grow from. There’s a lot in this game that we can grow from and that’s really important.”
South Carolina’s A’ja Wilson (18 points, 6 rebounds), Kaela Davis (14 points, 6 rebounds), and Allisha Gray (11 rebounds, 6 rebounds, 6 assists) worked to match Duke’s offensive output.
The support play of Duke’s bench players was critical to forcing turnovers and claiming valuable rebounds from the Gamecocks.
“I think it was just little by little,” Greenwell said when talking of coming back while behind 16-5 in the opening period.
“We were just letting them do little things that we had to stop them from doing. But we just had to keep coming back and go to our strengths. Really, we knew we just had to control the tempo. By the first quarter we got back at it and the rest of the game I think we did a great job at that.”
It was the little things that the Blue Devils did that made the difference, and helped them show that they were back at playing at a top-25 level.
“I mean, this team can play matchups, two of them, and also man and press and lots of other things,” McCallie said.
“So our intention was to take away the inside passing angles to those post players. The team did a fantastic job doing that.”
Duke Held a 42‐32 advantage in the paint, and created 28 points off 19 South Carolina turnovers, while holding the Gamecocks to a season‐low 63 points.
Ironically enough, when the two teams met last time in Cameron, almost two years to the day (Dec. 8, 2014), a 51-50 comeback win for the Gamecocks was amid the ascension of coach Dawn Staley’s team into the sport’s upper echelon where the Blue Devils appeared for many seasons.
It was a pivotal moment for both teams in coming back full circle to meet again in the Bull City.
Duke’s streak of 312 straight weeks in the AP Top 25 rankings ended on Jan 19, 2015.
Over the next two years, the Gamecocks remained a national championship contender while the Blue Devils lost their way.
The Blue Devils hit rock bottom last Spring when they missed qualifying for the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 21 years.
With a chance to end an eight-game losing streak to ranked opponents, Duke seized upon the opportunity and added another win to its record while earning some redemption in doing so.
Staley commented on how Greenwell exposed her team’s defensive weaknesses.
“We weren’t disciplined,” Staley said.
“That’s what it’s called. We played undisciplined defensively. We wanted to stay really close to [Rebecca] Greenwell because we know what she is capable of. Obviously she made us pay. She got into a groove of the game and it was really hard showing her different looks. We have to be a little more disciplined.”
Greenwell expressed her gratitude in having her efforts pay off for the team.
“It just feels great,” Greenwell concluded.
“I don’t think I’ve ever wanted to win a game as much as I did tonight, but I’m just really proud of how we had a full team effort. Everyone did special things. The defensive side of the game for us was just incredible. I was so proud of everyone. It just feels great to get the win so that’s all I really care about.”
DUKE: Rebecca Greenwell – 29 points, 3 rebounds; Oderah Chidom – 15 points, 8 rebounds; Kyra Lambert (10 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists
Duke shot 43 percent (6-14) from the field, 34 percent (1-3) beyond the arc, and 50 percent (1-2) at the free throw line.
SOUTH CAROLINA: A’ja Wilson – 18 points, 6 rebounds; Kaela Davis – 14 points, 6 rebounds; Allisha Gray – 11 rebounds, 6 rebounds, 6 assists
South Carolina shot 47 percent (7-15) from the field, went 0-for-4 beyond the arc, and 67 percent at the free throw line.
Duke 36, USC 29
Duke was led by Chidom’s 11 points and four rebounds along with Greenwell’s 11 points.
Wilson led South Carolina with 11 points and four rebounds.
A 32-18 run in the first half put Duke ahead on a combined defensive and offensive effort at both ends of the floor.
Both teams scored their share of points in the paint, but as South Carolina turned the ball over 12 times Duke took advantage of those chances to score 15 points off of.
The Blue Devils never relinquished the lead for the remainder of the game.
The Gamecocks scored the game’s first points while Duke turned the ball over on two straight possessions.
A fast-break layup from Brown followed a Chidom layup that put Duke ahead 4-2.
The Gamecocks quickly took advantage of their opportunities and put up nine straight points before McCallie called a timeout with the Blue Devils trailing 11-4 at the 5:25 mark.
South Carolina continued to build on its lead while Duke tried to cut the margin led by guard Lexie Brown (6 points).
The Blue Devils put together a 6-0 run to pull with two, trailing 16-14 heading into the second quarter.
Duke took advantage of South Carolina turnovers that resulted in a turnaround jumper from Brown, a layup from Greenwell, and a finger roll from Chidom which she followed up with a three to end the period.
The Blue Devils’ set offense then paid some dividends.
Chidom continued her run as she made a baseline drive under the basket and pulled Duke ahead 18-16.
South Carolina was scoreless for almost three minutes until Davis hit a jumper to even the score.
Greenwell then picked up the some of the slack for Chidom with a three from the left that was quickly followed up by a hard drive to the basket by Lambert.
Another layup from Erin Mathias (6 points, 4 rebounds, 3 steals) put Duke further ahead 25-20.
A three from Greenwell gave the Blue Devils their largest lead of the game up to that point, 28-22.
The Duke run continued, as did the South Carolina drought, and the Blue Devils added four more to lead 32-22 with 3:21 to go.
The Gamecocks responded, but not enough.
The Blue Devils’ defensive movement and spacing continued to create problems for South Carolina.
Odom and the Brown scored and extended the Duke margin to 11 points.
Duke led 36-29 at halftime.
While Kaela Davis got South Carolina started quickly, Duke continued to drop shots from Lambert and Leaonna Odom.
The Gamecocks chipped away at the Duke lead which stood at 45-37 with 5:30 to go.
A three from Gray cut it down to five points.
Greenwell matched that, and even while South Carolina was putting points on the board, the Blue Devils continued to do so as well.
After a Mathias putback extended Duke’s lead back into double figures, a steal by Greenwell and a pass to Lambert led to a layup as the Blue Devils led 55-43 at the end of the period.
South Carolina finally put together the run it was looking for, outpacing Duke 9-2 in the first 86 seconds of play.
Gray and Davis put up three consecutive three-pointers while Coates added a layup.
With the Gamecocks within five again, Greenwell’s three pushed the Blue Devils’ lead to 62-54.
A running layup across the lane from Greenwell had Duke ahead 64-57 with 2:54 to go.
A three from the right corner from Bianca Cuevas-Moore (6 points) made it a six-point game – 66-60 with 1:40 to play.
Coming out of the timeout, the Gamecocks were assessed a technical foul for having six on the floor which allowed Greenwell to drop two more and push the lead to eight.
South Carolina tried everything to pull closer – long 3s, fouling, tipping for rebounds – but Duke wouldn’t relent.
Lambert’s steal and layup made the margin 12 – as Duke led 72-60 with 51 to go.
The Gamecocks never got closer.