The fourth-ranked Duke Blue Devils came off a six-day break and dominated the Monmouth Hawks during a 73-32 victory in front of 4,594 in attendance at Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham, N.C. on Sunday.
Three different Duke players finished with double-digit scoring totals as Tricia Liston claimed 15 points and 9 rebounds, and was closely followed by Haley Peters’ double-double performance (11 points, 10 rebounds), while Chelsea Gray netted 13 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists.
The effects of the team’s time off showed as Duke (11-0) struggled to convert easy layups and short range shot opportunities throughout the first half.
The Blue Devils relied on their strong defensive play to stifle Monmouth’s offense as they established a commanding 29-3 lead by halftime.
“I really liked our team’s tenacity defensively,” Duke head coach Joanne P. McCallie said afterwards.
“Offensively, I’m not worried too much about anything that wasn’t great, simply because of coming off Christmas (break).
The opening half’s low scoring totals set a few different marks as Duke established a school record and tied a National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) record for fewest points (3) allowed in a half, while its total points scored (29) during the first half was a season low.
McCallie pointed out that her team focused on playing effective defense throughout the game.
Liston specifically referenced the team’s lack of consistent and effective defensive play during its recent games against CSU Bakersfield and Southern Cal, and how it wanted to focus on improving it against Monmouth.
“We set a goal at the beginning of the game and we were really focused on getting it,” she said.
“We were really trying to make a statement with our defense today and create from there.”
Jamming the lanes
Monmouth’s defensive game plan was to put bodies in passing lanes which created multiple problems for Duke and made its usually quick and free-flowing offense look somewhat sloppy at times.
“They were definitely packing it into the paint, so our offense wasn’t working as easily as we would have hoped,” Liston said.
“Their defense definitely altered our offense which can’t happen in future games because that will hurt us.”
McCallie praised the Hawks’ efforts on defense and believed that their play helped her team to better prepare for its upcoming Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) schedule of play.
“That is a well-coached team,” McCallie said.
“A real scrappy team that never quits and that stays in their defensive philosophy can be frustrating. I think that was good for us, to show us how we have to mature in certain areas.”
Changing it up
Throughout the game, McCallie made numerous substitutions in an attempt to kickstart the offense.
“It seemed a little dry offensively,” she said.
“From a substitution standpoint, sometimes you need energy. You know, just trying to mix it up a little bit, so I tried to do some of that today.”
Duke benefited from the personnel adjustments as it gained 22 points and 13 rebounds from its bench players as Chloe Wells (6 points, 2 rebounds), Sierra Moore (8 points), Ka’lia Johnson (7 rebounds), and Richa Jackson (6 points, 4 rebounds) logged significant minutes, particularly during the second half.
For Jackson, who has been recovering from a torn ACL injury to her left knee that she suffered last February during a game against Virginia Tech, the 14 minutes in playing time she racked up was her highest all season since getting on the floor for a minute during the team’s Nov. 28 game against Michigan.
“I have been out for a while and it feels so amazing to get back out there,” said Jackson.
“I just wanted to come out and play with energy.”
Jackson finished the game with an efficient performance scoring, rebounding, and making steals while not looking worse for the wear in doing so.
Ready for the ACC
As Duke’s bench depth increases, so too does its versatility in matching up with other teams in the ACC.
“Obviously our conference is challenging, and we will take one game at a time and those types of things, but I like the way this team is giving in to getting better,” McCallie said.
The Blue Devils’ next test will come Jan. 3 against the NC State Wolfpack, the team that eliminated the Blue Devils from of the ACC Tournament last season.
“The game last year definitely hurt us,” Liston said.
“That kind of stung a little bit, so it will be nice to get another go at it.”
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