Yes, Duke came into Reed with All-America candidate Elizabeth Williams in sweats and a boot after injuring her ankle on Friday night. And yes, they had to travel after playing at home on Friday night, and it was their 5th game in 10 days. And it's early, etc. None of that detracted from what an exciting and entertaining game took place on Sunday afternoon at Reed.
With Williams out, the Blue Devils started 6-4 So F Oderah Chidom in her place. The Ags countered with Jada Terry, Achiri Ade, Courtney Williams, Courtney Walker and Jordan Jones. Duke's height showed up right away with several putback attempts to start the game, but the Ags played the taller Devils pretty even for the first 6 minutes or so. Both teams were playing tough defense, with the Ags having trouble with Duke's length and their 2-3 zone D. A&M scored when they were able to find seams to take pull-up jumpers, or when opportunities were there to run, but Duke limited both of those and the Ags also missed some open looks, perhaps rushing with the thought of tall defenders coming. Duke scratched their way to a 9 point lead by the timeout at 8:18 in the first half. 6-1 RS Freshman Rebecca Greenwell stood out for Duke in the absence of their leading scorer, hitting early threes by rubbing Walker off of baseline screens, but also penetrating well. 6-5 Fr Azura Stevens made a big impact on both ends of the court when she came off the bench. Having an athletic 6-5 player out at the top of the key in a 2-3 zone is not something we'll see that often. The Ags cut the lead to 3 at 24-21. The Ags had a couple of chances to tie the game after a Duke timeout with 6:04 in the half. But after CWalk missed a three from the right corner that would have tied it up, the Blue Devils went on a 9-0 run to take a 12 point lead into the intermission.
The Ags shot poorly in general (31%) and were 0-7 from behind the arc in the first half. Williams led the Ags with 9 points and had a pretty good half despite missing a couple of FTs and layups. One was on a spectacular pass from Jones. Still, CWill was 4/7 from the field and took at least one charge on Duke. Walker had 8 points but it came on 3/10 shooting.
Duke shot 42% from the field and 67% from 3. Surprisingly, Duke only won the battle of the boards by 21-18. But they dominated points in the paint 16 to 8.
Coach called for the team to press in the second half. The Ags started Rachel Mitchell in place of Terry in the second half. Both teams started cold; the Ags tried a couple of entries to Rachel that were too hot for her to handle. But then Williams started to attack. The Ags cut the lead to 7 after JJ hit one of two FTs to make it 35-28 with 15:47 left. The Ags drew 7 fouls on Duke in that short time both by attacking and by being more aggressive on the boards. The people in my section were yelling for Williams to keep attacking and get as many Duke defenders in trouble as possible. But Duke countered as Greenwell and Stevens scored all the Duke points in a 10-2 run to make it a 15 point lead with 11:36 to go. The end of that run was a pair of Greenwell FTs after Walker fouled her on a give and go backdoor cut. At that point many in the crowd were thinking that maybe Duke was just too big and too good for the Ags. But nobody left and the team didn't stop fighting.
The next few minutes were amazing. It started quietly as Ade was fouled away from the play as a Duke player pushed over a screen. Achiri went to the line to shoot a 1 and 1. Achiri is not always the most reliable FT shooter, but she canned both. Down 13 11:23 to go. Greenwell missed and JJ pushed the ball to CWalk for a layup. Down 11. Stevens missed a 3. JJ drew a foul driving the lane and hit both. Down 9. Turnover. Williams to Walker for a short baseline J. Down 7. Timeout Duke. 10:12 left. Johnson missed a runout layup. CWill countered with a runner in the lane. Down 5. JJ steals the ball. Williams missed. Greenwell drove for a reverse. Down down 7. JJ penetrated and fed Khaalia with a bounce pass for a layup. Down 5. JJ drew a charge on the next possession. 8:25 to go. JJ hit a 3, the first of the game for the Ags.. Down 2. Stevens countered with a move in the lane. 49-45. 7:33. TV Timeout.
At this point the crowd is into it. And after the timeout, Williams stole the ball from Greenwell and fed JJ for a fast break layup. Down 2. Walker forced a turnover. Walker hit a baseline J to tie the game. Stevens retook the lead for Duke. After both teams missed, the Ags got another runout and Jada Terry drew a block on Duke. Jada made 1 of 2 to cut the lead to 1 with 5:36 to go. Greenwell missed, Achiri rebounded, gave the ball to JJ, who threw a beautiful bomb to CWill, who beat the D down the court for a layup and the lead. 52-51 with 5:06 to go.
Greenwell drew a 3rd foul on Walker and retook the lead for Duke. It was short-lived as Waker hit a 3 from the right corner. Greenwell missed a 3 but Walker got her 4th foul on the rebound. At this point Jones was playing with 3. Henson tied the game at 55 with 4:09 left. Ags ran a play for Jada, who gave the Ags the lead again at 57-55 before the 3:39 TV timeout. When JJ hit a short jumper in the lane after a Duke timeout, the Ags had a 4 point lead and was able to trade buckets enough to hang on to the end.
- Defense was the key to the comeback. After allowing 41.9% shooting in the first half, the Ags clamped down and held the Blue Devils to 25.7% in the second.
- Williams was the player of the game for the Ags. She played all 40 minutes and put a lot of pressure on the Duke D. She had 21 points on 9/17 shooting, and added 6 assists, 3 steals, and 3 rebounds. She drew at least 2 charges.
- Jones had 12 points, 7 rebounds, 8 assists and no turnovers. She played long stretches of the game with foul trouble.
- Walker started slow (for her) but finished with 19 points from 7/19 shooting. By my count, that means she was 4/10 in the second half, and her D on Greenwell in the second half was important.
- Ade led the Ags in rebounding with 9 boards. She only scored those 2 FTs that were the start of the comeback run, but did a lot that didn't show up in the scoreboard.
- Despite the stats being dominated by the starters, it felt like a team win where lots of players came in and contributed. The 3 young posts struggled, but made some key buckets and helped with some key stops.
- Greenwell probably deserves overall player of the game. 23 points; 3/6 from behind the arc, plus 5 boards, 2 assists, a steal, and a block. And she's just a RS freshman.
- Duke Coach Joanne P. McCollie was pretty unhappy after the game about physical play.
- I didn't think about the Chik-Fil-A Bowl comeback by JFF et al. vs Duke until after the game.
The Ags come out of the weekend still unbeaten at 7-0 for the first time since 2009-10. It will be interesting to see where we end up in next week's still too early to be significant rankings, with Stanford and Tennessee both losing this past week. The Lady Vols lost twice since the last rankings, including a loss on Sunday to #6 Texas. Tennessee is still missing starting post Isabel Harrison, so we should not read too much into their current struggles.
- Northwestern State Lady Demons, continuing the Ags wrestling with the supernatural this season. However, they aren't blue.
- 11AM CST Dec 3. Yes, 11AM on a Wednesday. Really.
- Reed Arena