Both are fifth-year senior guards for Duke, talented, experienced, offensively dangerous. Seven times in the last two seasons, the two had combined for 50-plus points in a game.
But the Huskies (35-0) did a good job defensively Saturday afternoon at the Times Union Center. They held Brown to 10 points. They held Greenwell to six on 2 of 6 shooting. They held Duke to six points in the second quarter. And they ground out a 72-59 victory to advance to the Albany regional final Monday night, where they will face defending national champion South Carolina with a berth to the Final Four on the line.
“Yeah, I think at the beginning we were a little lazy with our press and kind of giving up too many layups and open 3s,” UConn senior Gabby Williams said. “I think once we slowed down, started forcing some tougher shots, making sure it was harder for Brown and Greenwell to catch the ball, we just kind of got into our rhythm.”
“I think there was a lot of times during the game where we were really, really good at our defense and there were a couple of times where we slipped a little bit, but I think overall, we did a good job,” junior Napheesa Collier said.
Duke (24-9) trailed 20-14 after a quarter and 40-20 at halftime. It was the Blue Devils’ lowest scoring total at halftime all season and the second quarter was their second-lowest scoring quarter of the season (they scored five points in the third quarter in a 51-45 loss to N.C. State in the quarterfinals of the ACC Tournament). The Blue Devils also shot 38 percent for the game (23 of 60) and hit only three field goals in the second quarter.
“I’ve got to credit some good defense by Connecticut,” Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie said. “I’m really proud of our team and I certainly hope Connecticut does well.”
With all the focus on Duke’s backcourt, Duke sophomore forward Leaonna Odom was able to slip into the lane, hit some jumpers and layups and score 22 points to lead the Blue Devils.
“We wanted to make someone else besides Brown or Greenwell beat us today,” Williams said. “Odom stepped up but we’d rather have her than Lexie or Rebecca. It was a matter of help defense; always having an eye on them, knowing where they were on the floor, just playing good team defense on them. I think we did a good job on that; they didn’t get anything easy today.
“I think our help defense wasn’t great today, making sure we had somebody always low and taking away those back cuts wasn’t too good. And they got way too many open looks during our press.”
The UConn players thought it wasn’t their best defensive game, but naturally, this sort of thing gets harder and harder the deeper the Huskies go into the tournament.
“I would say from 1-10, maybe it was like a 6 ½,” senior Kia Nurse said. “I think the second quarter was a great job for us.
“Their backcourt is talented, they find each other well, they play together extremely well and what we did a good job of was trying to keep the ball out of their hands as much as possible. That’s usually the easy way to guard really good players. But once they catch the ball, that’s where it gets difficult. I think we did a pretty good job of team defense, switching out when we needed to and communicating and finding them as much as possible.”
“I think we had our moments but we had a lot of red flags and things we needed to clean up,” Williams said. “At times, we were a 10 and at other times we were a 1.”