The Lady Blue Devils are moving in to the toughest portion of their schedule firing on all cylinders. The Lady Blue Devils are 8-2 after defeating Winthrop 101-30 on Sunday afternoon. Before the daunting task of facing Atlantic Coast Conference opponents come late December/early January, Duke will have one last chance at a few tune up games to solidify the “Duke” identity for the second half of the season.
One of the biggest issues that Duke will need to address will be their lack of production from the post. In the tough lost to South Carolina, Duke gave up more points in the paint (54) than they managed to put on the board the entire game (52). Duke was also outrebounded 40-26 in the contest. Erin Mathias led Duke with 14 points and six rebounds in the game, but also fouled out against a more aggressive frontcourt.
Duke has struggled in the past to defend the better teams of the ACC in the paint. This season, the Lady Blue Devils are ranking in the bottom half of the conference in offensive (10th – 13.3/gm) and defensive (11th – 26/gm) rebounds, but are fifth in the conference in rebounding margin (+9).
“Splash Sisters” Lexie Brown (20 ppg) and Rebecca Greenwell (14.8 ppg) are carrying the scoring load for Duke, but there will need to be more scoring options as the season progresses. Moving forward, let’s look at the options that Coach P has and where that productivity could come from as we approach conference play.
Erin Mathias scored a team-high 14 points (6-8 FG) and six rebounds against South Carolina, but fouled out in the battle to contain USC’s A’ja Wilson, who finished with a double-double on the day.
While putting up impressive numbers against the Gamecocks, the Senior forward has not been known for her scoring. Last season, Mathias only averaged 3.9 points and 3.4 rebounds per game heading in to this season. Mathias has been able to show signs of being a solid rebounder, but she still is very inconsistent at times, leading to only averaging 5.8 rebounds per game. She did have a double-double against then-ranked #8 Ohio State with 10 points and rebounds.
The long-lost “Splash Cousin” scored her career-high 24 points in their December 7th contest versus UNC Greensboro. At 6-foot-4, Mathias has the length to be able to pull in rebounds on a consistent basis. She looks to have found her rhythm from close range, hitting 50% of her field goal attempts in seven out of the 10 contests this season. The question I have is can she continue to be aggressive and impact the game with her midrange shot and inside game? In the latter half of the season, she has been attempting more shots, but she didn’t attempt as many shots in the beginning while trying to find her new aggressive identity
Odom brings poise and versatility to the court for Coach P. Odom will not usually make mistakes under pressure, but also shies away from the spotlight at times. The Sophomore is averaging 10.6 points and 7.7 rebounds per game this season. Odom can play back to the basket or she can face up and shoot the midrange shot when needed. Her ability to disrupt opponents on the defensive end and get rebounds really sticks out, managing a steal in all games this season except one and leading the team in rebounds on four occasions.
The talent is there for Odom, but she sometimes shies away from the spotlight by deferring to the “Splash Sisters.” Granted that her role is not to be one of the primary scoring options, she certainly can get the ball in the basket when given the opportunity. Her ability to rebound and defend with her long wingspan could lead for her to dominate matchups of any position or size.
The ability to be that star player is there, but only Leaonna can let that person show up every night and not defer to the ‘Splash Sisters.’
Bego Vaz Davalos
Graduate of Fresno State, Davalos averaged 14.6 points and 11.2 rebounds per game her senior campaign. The San Luis Potosi, Mexico-native looked to come in to Durham and make an immediate impact, but has not see significant time until her first start against UNC Greensboro.
Davalos comes in to Duke with 37 career double-doubles and two triple-doubles, so the talent to make an impact is there. Right now, it seems like she is a little lost on times on the court on the defensive end and her layups are not falling when she does get an opportunity to attack the rim. The issue seems mental for the Graduate student.
Once she gets acclimated to the way her new teammates play, I believe she will be a very valuable component to the team as the conference tournament arrives. She has a very high basketball IQ and over 120 collegiate games under her belt. That experience could bring out the leadership that could steer the Lady Blue Devils to success come the post-season.
Madison Treece/Jade Williams
Two freshmen forwards who bring size and height to the court. At 6-foot-4 and 6-foot-5 respectively, these two ladies will eventually blossom in to the dominant force that Duke needs. Whether that will be this season still needs to be determined.
Both players were very talented in high school and provide well-needed support minutes from the bench. Treece is a more physical, back to the basket player who uses her sturdy frame to control the paint. Williams is a back to the basket forward as well, but has the quicker array of moves and a great touch around the rim.
When each player gets comfortable in their transition to college and playing college basketball, they will be a tough dynamic duo to guard in the post. There have been many beautiful post moves that rimmed out or were negated due to a foul that just show you signs that these two will be very efficient post players for the next three and a half years.
Duke will play Maine next, as Coach P will be facing her former team of eight seasons. Maine is a tough opponent, they only lost to Ohio State by 13 in Columbus. After Maine, they will play Wyoming and Liberty. Coach P does not believe those games should be taken lightly, mentioning that “no game is easy, unless you make it that way.” Coach P will look to experiment with different combinations on the floor and work on improving their offenses and defenses as they get closer to their New Year’s Eve matchup at Miami to open ACC play.
Photos by Lawrence Davis III