After a close call against Virginia, Duke needs to upset top seed Notre Dame in the ACC quarterfinals to have a chance at the NCAA Tournament.
The ACC Women’s Basketball Tournament kicked off today, and the Blue Devils escaped with a narrow 57-53 victory over the Virginia Cavaliers in their first round match-up. Duke trailed 53-52 with just over 1 minute left, but late free throws helped them take the lead and win the game late.
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The Blue Devils were led by forward Oderah Chidom, who compiled 20 points and 9 rebounds for the game. All-ACC wing Azura Stevens returned to action today after missing seven straight games with a foot injury to total 14 points and 15 rebounds. Additionally freshmen guards Kyra Lambert and Angela Salvadores added 9 points each, with Lambert hitting 2 free throws to give Duke the 54-53 lead with :42 seconds left in the game and Salvadores and Chidom adding one and two respectively as the Cavaliers failed to score in the final 2 minutes.
Duke is now 20-11, but still looking for a signature win this season. The Blue Devils weren’t able to record a win over a ranked team this season and are currently on the outside of the NCAA Tournament field looking in with the latest ESPN Bracketology listing Duke on the Last Four Out. The Blue Devils will have a prime chance to get a key win and beat a ranked opponent for the first time this season when they take on 2nd ranked Notre Dame in the ACC Quarterfinals tomorrow afternoon.
Earlier this season, Duke nearly upset the Fighting Irish but ended up losing in a close 68-61 loss after leading late in the 4th quarter. A win over the ACC regular season champions, who went undefeated in the conference, only lost one game all season, and are the #2 ranked team in the nation, would definitely help the Blue Devils’ chances of getting into the tournament and jump over the other teams currently on the bubble. Notre Dame advanced all the way to the National Championship game last season and finished as the NCAA runner-ups to UConn.
Stevens’ return will help Duke, but All-ACC guard Rebecca Greenwell did not play in the game against Virginia due to an injury. The Blue Devils will need everyone to step up and also require a lot more production from the bench. They will also need to improve their offense and limit turnovers, which are a few of the things that have hurt the team all season as they gave it away 17 times in the ACC second round match-up with the Cavaliers and shot only 31.3 percent from the field, 69.6 percent from the free throw line, and 6.7 percent(!) from three.
Be sure to check out the Blue Devils tomorrow afternoon at 2:00 pm as they take on #2 Notre Dame in the quarterfinals of the ACC Tournament. A win would help give Duke Women’s Basketball a chance to make the NCAA Tournament and make up for a season of struggles due to injuries, inconsistent lineups, and inexperience.