DURHAM, N.C. (AP) Lexie Brown’s father is best known for his creative dunks. The daughter of Dee Brown is drawing attention for making a more mundane shot with uncommon consistency.
The versatile Duke guard has made an Atlantic Coast Conference-record 53 consecutive free throws, and her poise is one reason why, after a one-year blip, the 12th-ranked Blue Devils are back among the top teams in women’s basketball.
Not surprisingly, coach Joanne P. McCallie wants the ball in her hands when her team has late leads.
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”Her confidence, the thoroughness of her game – she can shoot the 3-ball, but she has a midrange game and she can go to the rack and get fouled,” McCallie said. ”She has so many elements to what her game is.”
Duke (14-2, 2-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) brings its highest national ranking of the year into its first matchup of the season with top rival North Carolina on Thursday night.
With Brown sitting out last season due to NCAA transfer rules, the Blue Devils fell out of the AP Top 25 for the first time since 1999 and missed their first NCAA Tournament in 22 years.
Unable to travel with the team on road trips, Brown said she ”had a lot of time to myself in the gym” and kept busy by doing individual work.
Now that she’s playing, they’re winning again, and Duke doesn’t see that as a coincidence. Its 10-game winning streak, which included home wins over No. 3 South Carolina and No. 8 Louisville , ended with a loss at No. 6 Florida State on Sunday.
She learned the game from her famous – if, at 6-foot-1, undersized – father when she was 7 or 8 years old, and they figured out pretty quickly that her trademark wasn’t going to be the no-look jam that helped him win the NBA slam-dunk contest in 1991.
”I wasn’t the greatest athlete, but his athleticism was ridiculous, especially for his size,” she said. ”He knew from the beginning that that wasn’t going to be me, so he really spent a lot of time on my shot and my shooting mechanics, and we’ve kind of built from there.”
Brown is the team’s second-leading scorer at 17.4 points per game, is second on the team with 53 assists, hits nearly 47 percent of her shots, has 32 3-pointers and gets to the free-throw line more often than anybody else on the team.
And when she gets there, she usually makes it: A 93 percent free-throw shooter, she’s missed only five of them all season – none since Nov. 20 in a loss to Vanderbilt – to break the league record of 40 set by North Carolina State’s Jennifer Howard in 1993-94. She has some work to do to reach the NCAA record of 70 set by Lauren Prochaska of Bowling Green in 2011.
”I didn’t even know the streak was a thing until maybe 40 free throws in,” Brown said. ”Now, when I go up there, it’s in the back of my mind. … Now I know the exact number when I go to the line.”
It helps that her mother, who played college ball at Division II American International, has a psychology degree and ”is like my sports psychologist.” She’s helped Lexie Brown embrace the pressure that comes with such a streak.
”It’s kind of fun and it puts a little extra pressure on me,” she said, ”because even in those real-life high pressure moments, it all feels the same.”
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