The Blue Devils aren’t done yet, roll past Pitt

Duke senior Faith Suggs after the Blue Devils defeat Pitt, 86-64, in the ACC Tournament

Duke senior Faith Suggs scored a career-high 16 points and talks about the Blue Devils trending in the right direction in March.
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Duke senior Faith Suggs scored a career-high 16 points and talks about the Blue Devils trending in the right direction in March.

A matchup with Pittsburgh in the opening round of the ACC Women’s Tournament was just what Duke needed.

The Blue Devils, who have had a down year by Duke standards, continued their historic dominance against the Panthers, improving to 11-0 all-time in the series with an 86-64 win.

Under head coach Joanne McCallie, the Blue Devils are 6-2 in their opening-round games in the ACC Tournament. Duke improves to 48-33 in ACC Tournaments and have picked up at least one win in 23 of last 25 years.

“Obviously we are excited to get better,” McCallie said, “and excited to move on to the next round.”

The 11th-seeded Blue Devils will take on No. 6 Florida State on Thursday at 8 p.m.

Miela Goodchild led the Blue Devils (15-14) with 19 points. Goodchild also set a Duke record for three-pointers in a season by a freshman. Goodchild came into the game needing four 3’s to tie the freshman record and finished the game 5-8 from behind the line.

Duke knocked down 12 three-pointers, a season high, and were one made three-pointer away from tying a school record. Their previous high this year was 10, which they accomplished in three different games. They shot a season-high 55 percent from the field and also tied a season high in assists with 20.

Haley Gorecki added 16 points for Duke. Senior Faith Suggs (16) and sophomore Jayda Adams (15) each contributed with their career highs off the bench.

Pitt (11-20) was led by senior Danielle Garven with 16 points. Cassidy Walsh finished with 14, Kyla Nelson added 13 and Jasmine Whitney had 12. Even with four players in double figures, the Panthers had no answer for Duke once the Blue Devils got going.

The hot shooting night came as a surprised to the Blue Devils who claimed they couldn’t buy a basket at shoot around the night before in the Greensboro Coliseum.

“We were talking about this was going to be a game of driving to the basket,” Gorecki said, “because the shots weren’t falling for us at shoot-around. I guess we got all of our bad shots out of the way at shoot-around.”

The Panthers’ hope of a tournament win ended when Duke came out of the locker room for the third quarter on a 10-2 run. Leading by just four at the half, the Blue Devils outscored Pitt 25-11 in the third to take control of the game.

Duke led by 18 heading into the fourth and lived to see another day by keeping the pressure on in the final 10 minutes.

Duke looked out of sync early, shooting 2-6 from the floor heading into the first media timeout. They also had a tough time containing Pitt forward Danielle Garven, who tied Duke with six points as the Panthers led 9-6 at the 4:23 mark.

The Blue Devils got it together, going on a 6-0 to take a 29-27 lead in the second quarter. The Panthers hit three consecutive 3s to take its biggest lead of the first half, but turned the ball over three times in a row. Duke also found a way to slow down Garven, who was invisible after her early outburst.

The Blue Devils got good minutes in the first half from Suggs, a senior who not only contributed with five points and three rebounds, but dove on the floor and made hustle plays, picking up a steal in the process.

“Just an all around fantastic game,” McCallie said about Suggs. “She (takes) a lot of charges, she has a complete monopoly on that. It’s no surprise to any of us and it makes us all really happy.”

It was the first time Duke met Pitt in the ACC Tournament and the No. 11 spot was the lowest seed for the Blue Devils since 1993, when they were the No. 9 seed.

“We’ve never played this early in a long time, it was new for us” Suggs said. “It’s good that we are in North Carolina. It’s like a home game to us.”

Sports reporter Jonas Pope IV covers college recruiting, high school sports, NC Central and the ACC for the Herald-Sun and The News & Observer.