By Lily Hiser, Duke Sports Information Student Assistant
DURHAM, N.C.-- Sophomore Leaonna Odom gave Blue Devil fans an exciting preview of the upcoming season after her dominant performance in the NCAA Tournament.
The first-round game against Belmont was Odom’s third appearance in NCAA Tournament play. Odom started in both contests during her rookie season of 2016-17, helping the team to a substantial victory over Hampton University (94-31) before an eventual defeat by Oregon (74-65). Odom’s minimal collegiate experience had no effect on her performance, starting the Blue Devils’ tournament run by grabbing control of the court against the Bruins.
The Lompoc, Calif., native scored a career-high of 25 points, with 15 sinking in the second half, which was critical in securing the team’s victory 72-58 victory over 12th-seeded and 23rd-ranked Belmont. Odom also recorded a career-high shooting percentage, making 11-of-18 field goal attempts. She contributed to the team in other areas as well, notching six rebounds, four assists and two steals in her 37 minutes of action. Odom’s 25 points tied her for 14th-highest scorer in a single game in Duke NCAA play.
“[Odom] just makes everyone around her better,” remarked Duke head coach Joanne P. McCallie on Odom’s performance against Belmont. “One thing she’s learning is that when she plays at that level, the elevation of the team… you know it’s all about the team, and for [Odom] it is.”
In the second round, Odom continued her impressive performance, contributing 16 points on 7-of-12 shooting from the field and seven rebounds to the 66-40 victory over fourth seeded and 18th-ranked Georgia. Odom’s appearances in the two games in Athens, Ga., resulted in 41 points and 13 rebounds and helped move the Blue Devils on to the NCAA Regional for the 17th time in school history.
Odom would finish her 2017-18 season with another powerful performance in Duke’s regional semifinal against top-ranked Connecticut (72-59). She saw action in all 20 minutes of the first half, leading the team in points (10) and rebounds (4). Odom led the team overall in points, scoring 22 and hitting nine of her 17 attempts for the contest. This was the third time in her career that Odom recorded more than 20 points in a game, with the other two also occurring during NCAA tournament play (23 against Hampton in 2017 and 25 against Belmont in 2018).
“She's really good around the basket,” commented Connecticut head coach Geno Auriemma. “She's really athletic. I'm sure [if] she starts making jump shots, she'll be really, really a handful for everybody. But I think she's -- she's only a sophomore, right? Yeah, she's got a great future.”
Overall, Odom’s tournament play would culminate in a notable 63 points, 21 rebounds and nine assists, with her scoring in double digits during all three appearances. The All-ACC Academic Team honoree averaged 21.0 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 3.0 assists per game, positioning herself as a dominant factor in the Blue Devils’ tournament success.
The sophomore campaign saw the California native hit 52.9 percent from the floor, ripped down 207 boards and 38 blocked shots en route to 318 points, making 27 starts in 33 contests.
As a rising junior, Odom will be back on the court next season ready to build upon her finish to the 2017-18 season.
“I told her next season, I'd better not see a game where she's 20 under,” commented junior Faith Suggs. “I want to see it every time. She gives you energy, she keeps going, and no one can guard her, so it's exciting.”
Although the Blue Devils’ run ended in the quarterfinal round, Odom’s emergence in these three games as a sophomore is an exciting takeaway from the season, giving Blue Devil fans something to look forward to come October.
Duke wrapped up the 2017-18 campaign 24-9 overall with an 11-5 league mark and as a team ranked 14th nationally in field-goal percentage defense (35.4) and 19th in scoring defense (56.3) as both topped the ACC.