Lady Flames fall to Duke in opener
In their first time entering the Vines Center, the Duke Blue Devils (1-0) dominated the Liberty women’s basketball team (0-1) in the Flames season opener Nov. 11, 38-98 in front of a crowd of 3,741.
The Lady Flames put up a fight early against the Blue Devils, but the visitors were able to pull away in the second quarter.
“We started off well,” Head Coach Carey Green said. “We were focused on the game and on its details. A lot of it is going to be how the team responds to this. It was a big challenge game and an opportunity for us to truly be assessed, and we have a lot in front of us.”
In the beginning of the game, the Flames and Blue Devils exchanged a five-point lead, with the Flames leading 18-14 at one point.
The first period went downhill when Duke guard Rebecca Greenwell stole the ball from Liberty.
“The first period was tough,” junior guard Nene Johnson said. “We went up strongly, but the momentum went down. It is hard to get everyone back in it after that. When you are down 20 points, it isn’t easy.”
The Flames experienced a nearly five-minute scoring drought in the second quarter that was reflected in the rest of their play.
When the buzzer rang to mark the end of the second quarter, the scoreboard read 48-24.
“Duke is a really hard opponent, and everyone knows that,” freshman forward Ola Makurat said. “The first quarter went really well, but that was just the first. In the second, we started to beat ourselves. It was a lack of focus and cooperation.”
Liberty struggled to drain 3-pointers throughout the game, shooting just 5.9 percent from beyond the arc.
Although eight of the Lady Flames players were new to the team, Green does not attribute this loss to his squad’s lack of experience.
“It does not make a difference if they are a junior, a senior or a freshman,” Green said. “There is a sense of experience that you learn lessons from that the young players haven’t obtained yet, but it is about focus. It doesn’t matter if they are 18, 19 or 22.”
Prior to this game, Duke was 4-0 all-time against Liberty and 26-5 against all Big South opponents.
Duke Coach Joanne McCallie knew that while her team succeeded, they too were taken off guard by Liberty’s strong start.
“We saw things a tad too late in the first half,” McCallie said. “We can play a lot better — and we know that — but we were able to maintain intensity.”
This game broke the record for the most points ever given up by the women’s basketball in the Vines Center. Despite a loss in the first game of the season, Green saw it as a learning curve.
“They understand it is one game, and they are not defined by it,” Green said. “I challenged them to assess and assume responsibility of the things they can control in the next game. We are just taking small steps towards the championships.”
Green plans to apply lessons learned from this first loss to preparing for future games. The Lady Flames will have to rebound from the loss quickly as they take on James Madison and Appalachian State in their
next two contests.
“I really respect the level of intensity with which JMU plays,” Green said. “They do a great job rebounding. If we don’t take this game seriously and understand that we have to take care of business and improve rebounding, then it will be very difficult to beat JMU.”
The Lady Flames take on James Madison Nov. 15 at 5 p.m. and Appalachian State Nov. 17 at 7 p.m.
Both games will take place in the Vines Center.
ball is a sports reporter.