|Close Call for Duke in Crucial Game for NCAA Hopes|
|Oderah Chidom scored a game high 20 points as #8 seed Duke held on for a 57-53 ACC Tournament Second Round victory over #9 Virginia. The game was marked by the return of Azura Stevens from injury but also the absence of Rebecca Greenwell who was held out with a back injury. Duke advances to face #1 seed Notre Dame in the second Friday quarterfinal at 2 PM.
DWHoops Photo by Orin Day
GREENSBORO -- Duke sophomore Azura Stevens returned to the Blue Devils' starting lineup Thursday, just in time to score 15 points and grab 14 rebounds in a 57-53 victory over Virginia in the second round of the ACC Women's Tournament. Stevens' double-double was remarkable, considering that she had been unable to play or even practice in the month leading up to the tournament. Duke also got considerable help from Oderah Chidom, who finished with 20 points as the Blue Devils tried to advance without injured Rebecca Greenwell in the lineup.
"For Azura to come back and post that double-double without ever practicing and missing seven games shows the kind of person she is, the character that she has, the All-American she is, and it's just tremendous," coach Joanne P. McCallie said afterward.
Virginia led by as many as 9 in the first quarter, despite 6-10 shooting by the Blue Devils. They carried that lead into the second period and led 22-15 with 7:17 left before Chidom and Stevens sparked a 15-2 run that gave Duke a 30-24 lead with 1:32 to play in the half. Virginia scored the last two baskets of the half, however, leaving the Devils hanging on to a slim 30-29 lead.
Duke was able to stretch its lead in the third quarter, partly due to the Cavaliers' abysmal shooting. Virginia went 4-17 in the period and missed all five three-pointers attempted. Duke didn't fare much better from the floor, but rebounding and second chance points enabled the Blue Devils to gradually extend to a 43-38 lead going into the home stretch.
The fourth quarter is normally not an ideal time for a team to go cold, but that's exactly what happened to the Blue Devils, as Virginia erased a six-point margin to take a 53-50 lead with 2:45 left. While Duke was ice-cold, the Cavaliers began to crawl out of their offensive doldrums. Virginia shot 5-11 in the final period, and looked poised to steal a victory and advance to the ACC quarterfinal round. However, the Cavaliers wouldn't score again and Duke escaped with the victory.
Duke won the game despite shooting a whopping 31 percent from the floor and turning the ball over 17 times. As poor as they were on offense Duke simply dominated the glass, winning the rebounding battle 49-32. Stevens and Chidom accounted for 24 of those rebounds, while Kyra Lambert added 7 more to the total. Virginia, too, had a poor night shooting the ball (36%) but went 8-19 from behind the three-point arc. The threes are was kept the Wahoos close, especially since Duke was 1-15 from three. That's right. One.
Next up for the Blue Devils is a meeting with No. 1 Notre Dame, the two-time defending ACC champion, and the proverbial monkey on everyone's back. For the Blue Devils to have a chance, Chidom and Stevens are going to need some help. Guarding the three, which Duke obviously didn't do well Thursday, needs to be a point of emphasis.
"Well, we definitely need to do a better job there. We lost (J'Kyra Brown) and we lost (Aliyah Huland El) early, so we did a very poor job. That would not be a good idea (tomorrow)," said McCallie
DWHoops Nosh Player of the Game: Azura Stevens. For Stevens to come through like this with no practice whatsoever is astounding. The Duke training staff gets the assist here, but they couldn't go out there and own the paint like she did.
Five Fast Observations About Duke-Virginia at the ACC
Presented in memory of Jim Sabiston
- Confusion reigns. The whistle on Virginia's attempt to tie/win the game with seconds remaining capped a trying night for the officiating crew. Neither Joanne Boyle or her players wanted to comment on the play, but from my vantage point you don't make that kind of call at that point in the game. It prompted a review, of which there were a few during the game, but nobody was quite sure what a) they were reviewing or b) if it was reviewable in the first place. Unfortunate to see at this point in a season.
- Clank. McCallie admitted that Thursday's game wasn't the prettiest in the world. Duke shot 31% for the game and still won, which is hard to do when you turn the ball over 17 times, as well. Virginia wasn't much better, but got hot when needed to make the game closer than it needed to be. Also, it was fun to watch Coach P react to the 1-15 from three stat line in postgame. She couldn't even believe it.
- Second chances. The Devils had 24 offensive rebounds for the day, and turned them into 21 points. Conversely, Virginia only had 12 second chance points. You can't beat anyone getting outrebounded like that.
- No comment. Duke found out they would be without Rebecca Greenwell at around 4:30 Wednesday afternoon. Coach P was asked about Greenwell's status and responded: "Well, we've just told people that she's day-to-day. But I don't know." That is... not encouraging. DWHoops sources indicate that we will not see Greenwell in action for the remainder of the tournament, but that she would be available for the NCAA's should Duke earn a bid.
- Salvadores struggles. Nobody had a worse shooting night than Angela Salvadores, who went 3-13 from the field and missed all 7 three point attempts. It certainly wasn't for lack of effort, and she showed flashes at times, but it just wasn't her night. This was especially difficult with her father and brother in attendance having travelled from Spain for the occasion.
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DWHoops Photos by Orin Day