The fourth-ranked Duke Blue Devils extended their win streak to three games with a 90-45 win over the Valparaiso Crusaders at Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham, N.C. on Friday.
Center Elizabeth Williams led all scorers with 18 points and eight rebounds coming off the bench to play a total of 17 minutes for the game.
“She’s really hungry to play”, coach Joanne P. McCallie said of Williams’ performance afterwards.
Guard Tricia Liston finished with her second double-double of her career, scoring 17 points and grabbing a career-high 12 rebounds.
“Just got after some things that we needed to get after relative to being aggressive on the boards,” McCallie continued.
“I thought that there was some great leadership out there.”
Stealing the game
As both teams measured one another out during the first five minutes of play, and with Duke leading 10-7 at the time, Williams and Liston provided the scoring boost to the push Blue Devils’ offense further ahead.
Just as the Crusaders managed to tie the game 12-12, scoring five straight points, a steal by guard Alexis Jones (7 points, 9 rebounds) resulted in an easy score for Williams at the time, and the Blue Devils never looked back after that.
The steal by Jones was one of four that she finished with on the night and helped to anchor Duke’s defensive play supported by Haley Peters (16 points, 9 rebounds), Chelsea Gray (11 points, 7 rebounds), and Ka’lia Johnson (11 points, 2 rebounds, 3 steals).
“You gotta’ do the dirty work,” McCallie said regarding the team’s defensive play.
She referred to her team’s play as showing ‘substance over style’ and what made the difference in how it continued to rack points up on the score sheet, even while seeing its shooting average dip.
Duke shot 59 percent from the field during the first half and dropped down to only 41 percent in the second half, one in which it outscored its opponent 42-23 with effective and relentless defensive play.
The Blue Devils defense held Valparaiso’s offense to a 29 percent shooting output throughout the game.
“They’re big,” Crusaders coach Tracey Dorow said.
“They were just very active. They switched their defenses up a lot.”
Igniting the spark
The extra effort that Blue Devils put out in keeping their feet moving and making passing lanes look open and then quickly closing them was very effective against the Crusaders.
“We get a lot of style points because we’ve got a lot of great players, but that’s not going to take you to the ‘promised land’ – substance is,” stated McCallie.
Liston pointed out that the players understood that they were underperforming in grabbing rebounds during the first half, so they turned up their effort during the last 20 minutes of play.
“That kind of sparked a fire under us,” Liston said.
“We were just trying to stay aggressive and crash the ‘O’ boards, get the defensive boards, and try to get in goin’ from there.”
Developing good habits
Duke’s ability to score 54 points in the paint, 36 points off turnovers, and 25 points off the fast break showed that this team understands what it must do to win.
Knowing when to outdistance themselves and when to make quick comebacks against its opponents will be helpful down the road, and something that McCallie is trying to instill in her team.
“Having that many offensive rebounds during the second half indicates what we can do – once you start doing those things, it becomes a habit.”
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