An NCAA Tournament team for 21 straight years, the Duke Blue Devils were conspicuously absent from the 64-team tournament field last season for the first time since 1995.
The Blue Devils, 17-3 overall and 5-2 in Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) play, made notice earlier in the season that they are back with wins over South Carolina, Kentucky and Louisville in December and early January. Last week Duke scored victories over 17th-ranked Virginia Tech and Boston College to remain in the mix for a possible ACC regular season title run.
Against Virginia Tech on Jan. 19, Duke prevailed 84-59 as redshirt junior Lexie Brown led the way with a game-high 29 points to go along with four assist and three steals. The 5-9 guard hit 10-of-16 field goals in the contest. Redshirt junior Rebecca Greenwell finished with 18 points and sophomore Kyra Lambert had 10 to go along with six rebounds. Senior Kendall Cooper and freshman Leaonna Odom chipped in eight points apiece as Duke handed the Hokies just their second loss of the season.
Behind a dominant second half, Duke registered a road ACC victory Sunday as the Blue Devils downed Boston College, 67-44. Brown finished with a game-high 22 points as the Blue Devils outscored the Eagles, 38-16, in the second stanza. Greenwell finished with 14 points and five rebounds, senior Oderah Chidom came off the bench to add eight points, a team-high seven rebounds and four assists, while junior Erin Mathias dished a career-high six assists and added five rebounds.
Brown, who transferred to Duke from Maryland, has totaled nine games with 20 or more points this season. Named ACC Player of the Week after averaging 25.5 points, 3.0 steals, 3.0 rebounds and 2.5 assists over the two contests, Brown hit 60.6 percent of her field goals and 55.6 percent from downtown as she drained 5-of-9 treys. Over her 64 minutes of playing time, Brown did not commit a turnover.
On the season, Brown is averaging 17.5 points, 3.3 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 3.1 steals. She ranks second in the ACC in free throw percentage (92.5), fourth in scoring and third in steals. Brown recently hit 56 straight free throws, which was the sixth-longest streak in NCAA history and a new ACC record.
Ranked 14th in the latest Associated Press top-25 poll, Duke will have a chance to serve further notice of a return to notoriety when they next travel to Notre Dame, to face the eighth-ranked Irish on Thursday, Jan. 26.
Honorable mention teams of the week: Belmont, Bucknell, Chattanooga, Drake, Florida State, Hampton, Maryland, New Hampshire, Northern Colorado, Penn, Quinnipiac, Stephen F. Austin and Temple.