The Duke women’s basketball team defeated North Carolina 62-44 Sunday afternoon, in their regular-season finale. The win gives Duke a sweep of the Tar Heels and evens their season record at 14-14. Duke will enter next week’s ACC Tournament on a three-game winning streak.
Duke never trailed after the opening minutes and dominated the final three quarters, except for a 7-0 Tar Heels run early in the fourth that cut Duke’s lead to nine, at 53-44.
Leaonna Odom led everyone with 22 points.
The Tar Heels played without Stephanie Watts, out with a leg injury. They also lost Janelle Bailey to ejection late in the game after Bailey decided she pretty much wanted to fight the entire Duke team, with an official or two thrown into the mix.
But the game was already decided by that point and it was decided in large part by Duke’s rebounding dominance. Three Blue Devils had double-doubles, as Duke controlled the boards 53-34. Duke also limited its turnovers to a dozen and committed an equal number of fouls, with the Tar Heels shooting only 4-of-7 from the line.
“Excited about the rebounding,” Joanne P. McCallie said. “Really excited about the three triple-doubles. We’re just getting better. We’re all about getting better right now.”
“Rebounding has been our Achilles heel all season,” said Sylvia Hatchell, “and it was today. We couldn’t get second shots.”
Duke used Odom at point guard for much of the game and the junior excelled, four assists against only one turnover, to go along with those 22 points and 10 rebounds.
“No one else really had to run anything,” McCallie said, “she had control of the game. I love it for ‘Ne. I love it for her future career.”
“I’d say I’m getting very comfortable running the point guard position. I think this is probably my first actual year running the point guard position in my whole career and so it was a learning adjustment the whole season but you know, it’s coming and I think we’re coming together as a team as well.”
Duke led 4-0 before UNC went on a 7-0 run, six of those points coming on three-pointers by shooting specialist Leah Church.
“Shooters like playing against zones,” Church said, “and my teammates found me. But I needed to hit more.”
But Duke scored the next seven points and never again trailed.
With Watts out, Carolina needed big games from both guard Paris Kea and center Bailey.
They didn’t get them.
Duke’s zone swallowed up Kea whenever she got the ball inside off the dribble and kept Bailey from touching it on the blocks.
“We were trying to get the ball inside,” Hatchell said, “I thought we had people in good position but we just couldn’t get the ball to them. They got a lot of deflections. They’re long and they use their size well. They do an excellent job with their zone and we’ve struggled with it.”
“They made it impossible to get the ball to Janelle today,” Kea added. “When I drove, they clogged the middle and left people open. But we didn’t knock down the shots.”
Kea shot 6-for-18 from the field and turned it over four times.
And Duke held Bailey scoreless for almost 16 minutes,
Williams outplayed Bailey, 15 points and 13 rebounds, with Bailey tallying eight points and seven rebounds.
““I thought our defense was phenomenal today,” Williams said. “That was the emphasis we wanted to force her [Bailey] middle and we ended up not letting her get the ball—period—I felt like as much as she did last game. So, I’m proud of us taking her out of the game.”
Bailey had 23 points in the first meeting.
Duke led 16-10 after one and pushed the lead to 35-21 at intermission. Odom had 15 points in the first half, her best first-half performance of the season. Haley Gorecki went scoreless for almost 16 minutes but scored eight points in the final 4:06 got help Duke stretch the lead.
The Tar Heels shot a miserly 22 percent (7-for-32) in the first half with only Church’s four bombs keeping them within shouting distance.
The two teams traded baskets in the third, Duke extending the lead to 45-25, before North Carolina cut it to 52-37 after three.
Williams made a foul shot early in the fourth before a 7-0 Carolina surge made it 53-44, with 6:43 left, enough time left to complete the comeback. In fact, North Carolina had outscored Duke 29-18 over an 11-minute span
“We started pushing the ball more,” Kea said, “played better together.“
Duke dug down on defense.
Carolina missed three shots with a chance to cut the lead to seven.
““We just needed to refocus,” Williams said. “When they started to score, we just needed to bunker down and talk to one another and say ‘this is not happening, let’s step it up on defense’ and I thought we did that.”
“It was just a pride thing,” Odom added. “We wanted to really show that we should do this, especially for our seniors, so once we buckled down you know we played with more heart at that moment and stopped their run and then they couldn’t do anything after that.””
After cutting it to 53-44, Carolina missed its final nine shots, with a turnover thrown in.
It got ugly with 2:36 left. Williams and Church tied up on a rebound and a held ball was called. Bailey was on the other side of the floor and not involved in the play. But something set her off and she rushed Williams. Her teammates and then the officials succeeded in keeping her away and no punches were thrown.
Church said she didn’t hear anything to precipitate the scuffle. But Bailey has had anger-control issues in the past and likely will be suspended for UNC’s first ACC Tournament game next week.
“We want to be competitive,” Hatchell said. “But there’s no way I’m going to have a player who’s doing anything. She was being overly aggressive and didn’t know when to stop.”
Duke took the high road and focused on the win in their post-game comments.
Gorecki joined Odom and Williams in double-double-land, with 11 points and 10 rebounds. Gorecki hasn’t practiced all week due to turf toe. Onome Akinbode-James added six points, eight rebounds and two blocks.
Church didn’t score in the second half, missing all three of her shots, all from beyond the arc.
She ended with 12 points, Kea with 16.
Duke will open tournament play Wednesday, time and opponent TBD but likely known by the time you read this. A win would guarantee at least a .500 record.
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