No. 3 Duke women just not the same without the 'D'
No opponent had scored more against No. 3 Duke this women’s basketball season.
No single opposing player had reached 30 points against the Blue Devils in a little more than four years.
No. 17 North Carolina as a whole, and freshman Diamond DeShields individually with 30 points, took advantage of a porous Duke defense to deal the Blue Devils a loss that will resonate in their record book.
UNC’s 89-78 win Monday night marked the first time Duke had dropped a game to the Tar Heels since 2011 and the first time the Blue Devils had lost at Cameron Indoor Stadium to UNC since 2008.
“It doesn’t feel good,” Duke senior guard Tricia Liston said with tears in her eyes.
Coupled with Notre Dame’s 88-67 win over Duke on Feb. 2, it’s the first time the Blue Devils have lost back-to-back home games at Cameron since 1994 – when only a few of Duke’s current players were even born.
Other than saying center Elizabeth Williams was intimidating with her six blocked shots, Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie chastised her team for its lackluster defensive effort and warned such results will continue unless changes are made.
“Our team has got to want to play defense,” McCallie said. “If we don’t this is going to happen again.”
With homes games against No. 9 Maryland and No. 10 N.C. State plus road trips to No. 2 Notre Dame and No. 17 UNC left before the ACC Tournament, the Blue Devils (22-3, 9-2 in ACC) are in danger of absorbing a poor finish to the regular season.
“Defense is something that this team generally wants other people to do,” McCallie said. “We don’t get into defense. We are playing defense to get the ball back on offense.”
The Tar Heels show 54.3 percent in the first half to open a 45-36 halftime lead. Other than one slow stretch early in the second half where they missed seven consecutive shots, the Tar Heels were on target the rest of the game.
UNC finished at 51.5 percent to become only the second team to shoot better than 50 percent against Duke this season. Notre Dame, at 61.8 percent, was the other.
“We’re not getting into defense,” McCallie said. “Our transition defense has been awful. The difference in the game is transition defense, getting back, locating people. People were wide open when they shouldn’t have been.”
DeShields was a major benefactor of that kind of play. But she wasn’t alone. UNC hit 12 3-pointers, including 7 of 15 in the first half when it built a double-digit lead.
In fact, UNC jumped to a 10-2 lead and never trailed in the game.
“You should be able to have the same defensive focus and energy for 40 minutes or however long you are on the court,” Liston said. “I guess if we go back and look at some things. I guess you could say that is maybe attributing to our lack of defensive pride at this point and not getting the job done.”
Duke gets a break in its schedule before its next game, which is Monday at home against No. 9 Maryland.
A senior, Liston said focus must improve before the team will get better results on the court.
“On our off days,” Liston said. “We will have to refocus and really think about what everyone has to do individually to change and where we want to go as a team. The next game is a big challenge for us. We are going to have to regroup, come back, get back after it and decide what we want to do for the rest of the season.”