Playing in his final regular season contest, Belshaw made three saves en route to registering his fourth straight shutout and career-best eighth of the year. The win pushed Duke to 8-7-2 overall leading into the ACC Tournament, while SIUE falls to 12-6-0.
"The credit [during this shutout streak] doesn't just go to me," Belshaw said. "It goes to the whole team. And not even just the back four and eleven starters, but also the guys off the bench. We've had this mentality this year of not conceding goals and just defending like our life depends on it. We've done that and that's what has brought us success."
Youth served the Blue Devils well in the game as freshmen and sophomores combined for all of the goals and the assists. Sophomore Riley Wolfe assisted on both scores, while Sean Davis notched his third assist of the season on what proved to be the game winner.
"I'm proud of our guys," head coach John Kerr said. "They played hard. We didn't play great the whole time, but it's been a tough week with Elon and now this great team so it took a lot out of us. Now we have to recover and get ready for our big game on Tuesday."
Duke, in need of a victory to close the regular season, came out well to start the game. The Blue Devils controlled much of the possession as the two squads spent the opening 15 minutes feeling each other out. With neither team generating any dangerous opportunities in the early going, Duke took advantage of its first chance in the 17th minute.
Earning a throw-in in the Cougars' defensive third, Wolfe backed up for one of his patented long throw-ins from the right sideline. The toss found Davis in the center of the field just outside the penalty box. The Blue Devil midfielder flicked the ball into the penalty area where Mathers volleyed the ball past SIUE goalie Kent Kobernus for his second goal in the past three games and a 1-0 Duke lead.
The Blue Devils continued to control the run of play in the first half, creating four more shots, including another incredible strike from Mathers that sailed just high. SIUE managed four shots in the opening 45 minutes, but could not get past Duke's stalwart defense as the Blue Devils went into halftime with the 1-0 advantage.
SIUE, after weathering a good start by the Blue Devils in the second half that featured consecutive headers from sophomore Nat Eggleston that missed just wide, took control of the game midway through the period. In need of an equalizer, the Cougars generated numerous dangerous looks at net.
The best chance of the evening for the visiting squad came with just over 20 minutes to play as a Cougar found his way in behind the Duke defense. Looking like he had an easy path to goal, Duke sophomore defender recovered well and slid at the final moment to prevent to block any chance of getting a good shot off.
Just over a minute later, Cougar forward Kevin Stoll had his shot from 12 yards saved by Belshaw, while the rebound shot from Jared Tejada sailed high. Belshaw came up big again with 13 minutes to go, stopping another Tejada shot from long range.
With SIUE seemingly on the verge of netting the equalizer, Duke scored against the run of play in the 84th minute to clinch the win. Wolfe, active again for the Blue Devils in the offensive third, found a streaking Rendon on the left side. The rookie forward got into the box, beat a defender and slipped the shot past Kobernus for the 2-0 lead. The assist was Wolfe's second of the game and third of the season.
"First of all, the SIUE team is very talented, very good going forward, good movement off the ball and we thought [Zach Mathers] could help us in the back," head coach John Kerr said. "Obviously it left a hole in the midfield. Having Luis [Rendon] come into the fray really helped because he's a little bit more active and comfortable on the ball and created some chances for himself and put one away, which was huge for us to ice the game."
The Blue Devils backline, determined to keep the clean sheet, held off the Cougars in the final six minutes for the 2-0 victory.
Duke held a 15-10 advantage in shots, while the Cougars won the corner kick battle 6-3. Kobernus finished with two saves in the setback.
The Blue Devils begin ACC Tournament play Tuesday, Nov. 6 at third-ranked North Carolina. Duke earned the No. 7 seed in the tournament, while the Tar Heels are second after taking a share of the ACC regular season title.