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Recap: No. 16 Duke puts on defensive clinic on Kitley, Day-Wilson smooth from mid-range

Shayeann Day-Wilson hit some key mid-range shots for the Duke Blue Devils, missing just one of five shots from inside the arc. Meanwhile, the team held Virginia Tech Hokie star Elizabeth Kitley, who averages 17.9 points per game, to just four points on 1-of-9 shooting from the field. Kitley did, however, haul in her 1,000th career rebound.

NCAA Womens Basketball: ACC Tournament-Pittsburgh at Duke
Shayeann Day-Wilson
William Howard-USA TODAY Sports

With the No. 16 Duke Blue Devils leading 58-49 at 58 seconds remaining Thursday night at Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham, North Carolina, the No. 12 Virginia Tech Hokies began to foul.

At that point, Tech had scored nine points in the fourth quarter. If you don’t count the six more points the Hokies scored because they extended the game by fouling, they only scored 17 in the second half.

It was yet another dominant performance by the second-best defense in the country and the Blue Devils won the game 66-55. Tech only saw one of its players have a good night offensively and that was Taylor Soule, who finished with 19 points. Everyone else was held to single figures and the team’s top two scorers, Elizabeth Kitley and Georgia Amoore, were held to four and seven points, respectively. Kitley was 1-of-9 from the field and Amoore was 2-of-12.

That Duke’s Shayeann Day-Wilson had one less point than Soule doesn’t capture how on fire the sophomore was early on from both mid-range and distance, as she dropped 10 points in the first quarter alone. Elizabeth Balogun added nine points, including a short bank shot at the shot clock buzzer with 1:47 to go that pretty much put the game out of reach at 58-46. Balogun also had six rebounds, three steals and two blocks.

That make by Balogun capped a 10-0 Duke run that started at 5:23 remaining. Soule had backed down from the perimeter to score on a layup that cut it to 48-46, but Reigan Richardson answered with a short bank shot while falling away. From there, Celeste Taylor made a layup at 4:51, Balogun made a layup while turned away from the hoop at 3:53 and Day-Wilson made two free throws at 3:14 to guide the Blue Devils (18-2, 8-1 ACC) to the big-time win at home.

Soule had quite the start to the fourth before all that. She brought the ball up for much of the frame, including when she sliced and spun through the Duke defense before laying it up at 7:40 remaining to cut it to 43-42. Duke answered with a Mia Heide 3-point play and a Balogun inside make, but Soule refused to give up, tipping the ball away from the Blue Devils in the backcourt, diving for it and calling a timeout at 6:29 remaining, just before a jump ball was called. On the ensuing Hokie possession, Kitley made two free throws to cut it to 48-44.

Then came Soule’s layup that cut it to 48-46; for the second time in the frame, the ball didn’t touch another player’s hands during a possession.

Soule played her heart out, but finished with just four rebounds. It should be noted that Kitley, amidst her offensive struggles, had game highs in both boards (13) and assists (three) and picked up her 1,000th career rebound.

After trailing by as many as nine, the Hokies (16-4, 6-4 ACC) cut it to two with four seconds remaining in the second quarter. They then cut it to one on two Soule free throws two minutes and 45 seconds into the third and tied it on an Amoore three at the 5:14 mark of that frame. They took their first lead of the game when Cayla King (3-of-3 from downtown on the night) made it back-to-back threes at 4:17. Tech was in control on the road, but it didn’t last long as the Blue Devils closed the third on a 4-0 run to lead 41-40 entering the fourth. The Hokies scored just eight points in the frame; Duke scored just seven.

Duke led 26-17. 28-19 and 30-21 over the first 4:47 of the second quarter before Tech went on a 13-4 run to close the first half down just 34-32. The 13-4 run started with a D’asia Gregg three followed by an Amoore mid-range make. Day-Wilson answered with her own make from mid-range and then Taylor hit free throws to briefly restore breathing room for the Blue Devils. But a 4-of-4 combined free throw effort from Soule and Gregg swung momentum back in favor of the Hokies and then Soule closed the half with an impressive layup after a re-adjustment under the basket.

Day-Wilson contributed a three to a 7-0 run that opened the contest. Soule hit just the ninth three of her lengthy college career to cut it to 7-3 and prevent Duke from running away with it early. From there it was back and forth for a while, leading to 14-10 lead for the Blue Devils. Day-Wilson hit from mid-range to make it 11-8 and from three to make it 14-10, so she was doing a good job keeping her team a step ahead. Her ninth and tenth points of the contest, on another mid-range make, would push it to 16-0. A Vanessa de Jesus layup then made it 18-10, giving Duke its largest lead of the opening frame. It would lead by six (23-17) entering the second.

Entering the day, Duke was a No. 3 seed in ESPN’s Bracketology; Tech was a No. 4 seed.