Duke opens NCAAs with win over Hampton
Duke women's basketball coach Joanne P. McCallie wasn't worried about her team being tested in its NCAA Tournament opener against Hampton.
She knew it was coming.
The 15th-seeded Lady Pirates proved her right for much of each half Sunday at Cameron Indoor Stadium, cutting the Blue Devils' lead to six midway through the second before Duke pulled away for a 67-51 victory to advance to Tuesday's second round vs. Oklahoma State (7:10 p.m., ESPN2).
"I've been mid-major coach before, and I'm sorry for Hampton that they were a 15 seed because they were trying to get their first NCAA Tournament victory and they should have been a higher seed," McCallie said. "They earned that by what did over the season. They earned that by who they beat.
"They did everything right, and then they had to come play Duke at Duke. ... I've been there before, and my heart goes out to them because they're trying to build a special program just like we all are."
Postgame sympathy aside, the Blue Devils had to put together a balanced attack to overcome the Lady Pirates.
Tricia Liston did the damage outside for Duke (31-2), finishing with 20 points, including four 3-pointers, to run her career total to 1,012.
Inside, Elizabeth Williams posted 18 points, while Haley Peters added 12 points and 10 rebounds.
Freshman point guard Alexis Jones finished with 11 points and 10 assists, barely missing a triple-double by running down eight rebounds.
"I was pretty excited for my first March Madness game today," Jones said. "I thought we handled the pressure well. I thought we came out ready to play. ...
"I needed to calm down and slow the game down a bit and run some plays, execute and take it play-by-play on the offensive and defensive end."
Hampton (28-6) got on the board first, but then Williams, Peters and Jones posted four points each as Duke raced to a 12-6 lead at the 14:49 mark of the first half. The Blue Devils pounded away inside with Williams scoring six straight points, then Jones added her only 3-pointer of the day for a 25-14 margin with 6:01 left in the half.
Duke built the lead to 19 before heading to the locker room with a 32-15 advantage and led by as many as 18 in the opening minutes of the second half.
But then Hampton's halftime adjustments began to help the Lady Pirates whittle away the margin.
"I think we definitely were settling," Hampton coach David Six said of his team's shot selection in the first half. "At halftime, we talked about, 'This is what we do. Let's not do anything different.' (But) we obviously made some adjustments.
"We were able to get to get off to a good start (in the second half). ... We got after them well. I told them I thought we were backing up too much. If we have to go out of here, let's go out of here moving forward."
A jumper by Keiara Avant, who led Hampton with 18 points, capped an 11-2 run and cut the deficit to 46-40 with 10:14 left in the game.
But that was as close as the Lady Pirates would get. Williams returned from a rest to score four straight points as Duke again forced the ball inside repeatedly and never led by fewer than 10 the rest of the way.
"I think it was really important to get paint shots, especially in a game like this," Williams said. " We want to create contact, try to get to the foul line and try to get the easiest shots we can."
Even though the Lady Pirates expected Duke's strength inside, they had hoped to limit the Blue Devils' options elsewhere.
"They're big; they're going to pound inside," Six said of the Blue Devils. "It's hard when you double down and you make a good play, and they reverse it and they get a (3-pointer).
"Naturally, when you see that, when know that you've covered all bases and they hit a three, it deflates you a little bit."
NOTES — Liston is the 29th Duke women's basketball player to reach the 1,000-point level, but she soon will have company in the group. Peters needs 11 points to reach the plateau, while Williams is 27 away. ... Williams' three blocked shots lift her career total to 210, including one in each of the 66 games she has played for Duke. ... The Blue Devils are 5-0 against Hampton, including a 72-37 win in the 2010 NCAA Tournament, also at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Duke 67, Hampton 51
Percentages: FG .317, FT .636. 3-Point Goals: 4-18, .222 (Allen 3-11, Avant 1-2, Cole 0-1, Bennett 0-1, Hamilton 0-3). Team Rebounds: 5. Blocked Shots: 2 (Bennett, Allen). Turnovers: 17 (Hamilton 7, Bennett 5, Avant 4, Phelps). Steals: 6 (Hamilton 2, Allen 2, Bennett, Avant).
Percentages: FG .452, FT .750. 3-Point Goals: 5-14, .357 (Liston 4-10, Jones 1-2, Wells 0-1, Jackson 0-1). Team Rebounds: 3. Blocked Shots: 4 (Williams 3, Jones). Turnovers: 18 (Jones 6, Peters 3, Johnson 3, Jackson 2, Liston 2, Vernerey, Wells). Steals: 10 (Wells 3, Jones 3, Liston 2, Johnson, Jackson).
Officials—Wesley Dean, Maj Forsberg, Timothy Bryant.