Chapel Hill, N.C. – In the latest edition of Tobacco Road’s most spiteful rivalry, the visiting Blue Devils notched a surprising victory over the recently red-hot Tar Heels. Duke (11-11, 3-7 ACC) used gorgeous offensive movement, exploited weaknesses, and just generally dismantled North Carolina (14-10, 5-5 ACC) while cruising to an 85-69 win.
Duke’s victory keyed off a phenomenal night from guard Haley Gorecki, who put up 28 points, four assists, and 10 rebounds. Three other players finish in double figures in Leaonna Odom (21 points, seven rebounds), Jade Williams (13 points, six assists), and Miela Goodchild (14 points, three assists.)
The game turned with 7:31 left in the second quarter. North Carolina had a 29-22 lead and were playing well despite the absence of star Paris Kea, who was out due to illness. Then the Blue Devils hit the gas pedal, and the game was never really in doubt thereafter. They closed the half on an 18-2 run, going into the locker room up 40-31. Gorecki attributed that crucial stretch to Duke’s ability to dictate the game’s pace.
“I think it’s composure, using our speed and controlling the tempo,” she said. “UNC likes to play fast. Obviously we do to, but with the numbers that we have, we kind o have to control the tempo, so I think we did a good job of that.”
Blue Devil coach Joanne P. McCallie credited her team’s collective effort for the win.
“I’m just happy. Proud of our team, tying to get everybody involved,” she said. “The four people in double figures is an important concept for us. Everybody going to their strengths. … We were patient, and we looked to find people in the right spots.”
Duke’s season has been defined by unevenness, but McCallie sees promise in her squad moving forward.
“It was a good game for us. We’re trying to get better. I thought we got better and we’re just trying to get ready for (the next game) on Sunday,” she said. “I just think we’e overdue by miles in terms of the season. The adversity we’ve faced, the times that we’ve faced it, and these players coming together to play together … for us, we have to get better, and we have to just keep growing as a team and learn how to control games, and we’ve been doing that. Outcomes don’t always tell you the story. We’ve been playing a lot of great basketball.”
It was a rough evening all around for the Tar Heels, who were thoroughly out-shot. (The splits: UNC 33.3/23.1/86.4; Duke 56.9/6.2/65.0). They also lost the rebounding battle, 42-30. Janelle Bailey led the way for North Carolina with 23 points and eight rebounds. Other top scorers were Taylor Koenen (12 points, six boards, five assists) and Stephanie Watts (11-2-4).
“We were very out of sync, which you could tell from watching the game,” Tar Heel coach Sylvia Hatchell said. “We started out pretty good, and then they gained confidence, and they kept spreading out their defense, which took away some of our things we wanted to do. … Paris not being out there was huge.”
Bailey said the team’s troubles stemmed from lack of execution.
“Lack of communication and rebounding, that was the whole game,” she said. “And we weren’t together as a team. … And then one thing led to another. We put our head down in the sand and couldn’t get it back out.”
North Carolina upset two top 10 teams in a week span, and Hatchell said she and her players are looking forward.
“This game’s over, and we’ve got to get ready for Clemson on Sunday,” she said. “That team we’ve had the last two weeks, that’s our team. And tonight’s one game. So the team’s where I want them to be, and we’ll be fine.”