The Duke and North Carolina women ended the 2021-’22 regular season Sunday in Carmichael Auditorium heading in opposite directions. The Tar Heels came in having won six of their last seven, while the slumping Blue Devils had lost four of five.
So the trend lines were there.
But no one expected 74-46, an old-fashioned beat-down as decisive as it was dispiriting for the Blue Devil faithful
Duke was outplayed in every single area of the game and looked like a team going through the motions.
Duke coach Kara Lawson said Duke’s major flaw was a lack of discipline.
“We weren’t as disciplined as we needed to be on the defensive end. Offensively, I thought we got some solid looks but obviously we didn’t shoot a great percentage and I thought 20 offensive rebounds really hurt us. I thought our zone was pretty effective in terms of having them take a tough shot. But then they got the offensive rebound and I thought that was a big part in the separation they created.”
Duke actually led once, when Celeste Taylor drilled a 3 to make it 3-0.
But Duke didn’t score for another five minutes, allowing the Tar Heels to go on a 14-0 run.
What went wrong during that stretch?
“I think we got in our heads defensively,” Taylor said, “when we were on the defensive end, we weren’t focused, we weren’t locked in together and that kind of messed us up on the offensive end. At the end of the day there are two sides of the ball and we’ve got to play hard on both sides of the ball and we didn’t do that today.”
The Tar Heels went cold for several minutes, Duke regained its composure and the Blue Devils clawed back into the game. It was 16-8 after one and Duke got as close as 18-14 three minutes into the second period.
It was 22-16 when the wheels again came off and this span decided the game.
It’s difficult to describe how poorly Duke played in the final five minutes of the first half. Duke missed its last six shots and added three turnovers into the mix. Carlie Littlefield put together a four-point play when Shayeann Day-Wilson fouled her on a 3-pointer.
Carolina’s 12-0 run made it 34-16 at the half.
Teams have come back from an 18-point halftime deficit but not teams struggling as mightily as Duke is struggling. The second half never had a hint of suspense other than the final margin. Carolina’s lead got as big as 35 at 62-27 before Courtney Banghart emptied her bench.
The final stats told a woeful tale. Duke shot 31 percent from the field, 18 percent on 3s (4-22). UNC shot a modest 39 percent. But North Carolina got 20 more field goal attempts, four more foul shots. They mauled Duke 51-35 on the boards and forced 16 turnovers, while committing only seven.
Taylor and Day-Wilson were the only Blue Devils in double figures with 14 and 11 points respectively. But Day-Wilson was 3 for 12 from the field and had three turnovers, which was one less than Onome Akinbode-James and Elizabeth Balogun had for Duke.
Anya Poole and Alyssa Ustby led four Tar Heels in double figures with 15 points apiece.
Duke was locked into the 10th seed at this week’s ACC Tournament even before this game and they’ll need a deep run in Greensboro to keep alive their season.
What does Duke need to do?
“We’ve just got to get back and try to play more disciplined,” Lawson said,” and try to follow the game plan and stay within our schemes. When we deviate from the game plans and the schemes, it doesn’t go well for us. What we need is more connectivity on the defensive end, match up and know who we’re guarding.”
“Just following the game plan and playing together and locking down on what they’re telling us to do. I think it goes from top to bottom, for all the players.”
Duke opens tournament play Wednesday afternoon.