5 observations from Duke women’s basketball’s first half against South Carolina

Coming off of a victory in the ACC/SEC Challenge against Georgia, the Blue Devils welcome the South Carolina Gamecocks to Cameron Indoor Stadium Sunday afternoon, looking to upset the top-ranked team in the nation. At the halftime break, the Blue Devils trail the Gamecocks 35-29:

Traveling Gamecock crowd

As early as warmups, it was evident that the seats of Cameron Indoor would not be colored in its traditional blue, white and black. During pregame introductions, it was South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley’s name that heard the loudest cheer. As the matchup’s intensity heightened, the support for South Carolina was just as loud as that for Duke, contributing to an electric environment, reminiscent of a packed high school gym. 

A quick start

Coming into the matchup as massive underdogs against Staley’s side, Duke jumped out to an 8-4 lead in the opening three minutes of the first quarter. Started by an Ashlon Jackson triple, the Blue Devil offense was flowing. Unfortunately for an energized Duke squad, South Carolina’s offense was just as charged. Six early Chloe Kitts points later, and the home team trailed 10-11 at the under five timeout. 

South Carolina size

While shooting well from three in the first, South Carolina’s offense relied on its overwhelming size advantage. While Kamilla Cardoso was relatively quiet, totaling five first-half points, Kitts kept the Gamecocks competitive with eight points and five rebounds. South Carolina outrebounded Duke 22 to 11, seven of which on the offensive glass. 

On the other end of the floor, Duke was forced to take 3-pointers and midrange jump shots, a showing of South Carolina’s physical dominance. The Blue Devils ended the half shooting 5-for-11 from three, with 34.4% of their attempts coming from behind the arc.

Turnovers, turnovers, turnovers

In the first half, the Blue Devils were excellent on the defensive end, forcing the Gamecocks into 14 turnovers, perhaps the most significant reason head coach Kara Lawson’s squad stayed in this matchup. Inside the paint, the Duke guards were active in helping Kennedy Brown and Camilla Emsbo, forcing the Gamecock centers into travels and missed layups. Jadyn Donovan totaled two blocks in the first half, both coming on the interior. 

Additionally, the Blue Devil guards were rebounding, Donovan and Oluchi Okananwa accounting for five of Duke’s 11 total rebounds. 

Player of the half: Delaney Thomas

After an early Donovan foul, Lawson opted for Delaney Thomas to replace the standout freshman, and to say she impressed would be an understatement. With nine points that started with a three-point make, Thomas finished the first quarter shooting 4-of-5 from the field. What impressed about Thomas’ opening quarter was her movement off the ball, making smart cuts that led to easy buckets. Largely due to Thomas’ electrifying offensive play, the Blue Devils took a 20-18 lead going into the second quarter. 

In the second, Thomas continued her dominant play on both ends, most notably stripping South Carolina on defense and finishing with a coast-to-coast right-handed layup. 

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