Duke women turn attention to Cowgirls
No. 7 Oklahoma State won’t come at No. 2 Duke in waves today during the second round of the NCAA Tournament (7:10 p.m., ESPNU).
But the Cowgirls’ first five sure can generate a mighty current, Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie said.
“They’re just a strong team,” McCallie said. “They don’t probably go nine deep, though. I think that five is a pretty critical mass for them, and we’ve just got to make them work very, very hard on defending us and limit them in transition.”
OSU (22-10) got to the second round by beating DePaul on Sunday at Cameron Indoor Stadium. That was the Cowgirls’ third straight win in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, and Toni Young’s 25 points and 13 rebounds was an exclamation point for OSU.
Young has been hot and will be looking for her fourth double-double in a row tonight on Duke’s home floor.
McCallie said Young is one of those players “who can just rattle off points quickly. Very, very aggressive. Very athletic player who will run the floor well.”
The Blue Devils (31-2) will need to talk it up on the floor in order to provide strong help-side defense on Young, Duke forward Elizabeth Williams said.
“Just kind of focusing on those things and trying to get her up in the air,” Williams said.
Kendra Suttles put up 11 points and pulled down 13 rebounds against DePaul, and Liz Donohoe (14 points) and Tifffany Bias (12 points) also scored in double figures for the Cowgirls.
“They’re just an excellent team,” McCallie said. “Five strong — one, two, three, four, five.”
The difference maker for OSU is Suttles.
“She can also go right and left, which is unusual,” McCallie said of the lefthander. “I thought she’d be more left, but after watching the film, it’s clear she’s right and left — very competent off the bounce and an excellent shooter in the trail.”
When Duke has the ball, the Cowgirls will be challenged to lasso the Blue Devils, OSU coach Jim Littell said.
“They can score in five different positions,” Littell said. “They’re very experienced. They’re long. They’re athletic. They keep people out of the paint.
“I think one thing they do extremely well is they know how to play the game. If they don’t run plays, they read what the defense does. I just feel that Duke is a very well-coached team that understands how to play the game.”
In the first round against Hampton, Duke also had four players in double figures, getting a double-double from Haley Peters (12 points, 10 rebounds). Freshman Alexis Jones nearly had a triple-double (11 points, 10 assists, 8 rebounds), while Tricia Liston led the way with 20 points and Williams had 18.
OSU plays in the Big 12 and has had to tangle with 6-8 Baylor center Brittney Griner. That experience will help the Cowgirls deal with the 6-3 Williams, Littell said.
“Oh, I think so,” Littell said. “You know, Griner is pick-your-poison when you play Baylor, at times. There are also great players at Duke, but Griner can beat you a lot of different ways. She can beat you with the pass if you go double her. She’s just got a lot of different ways to beat you.
“I think they’re very similar in a lot of ways. Not to take anything away from Williams, because she’s a great, great player, but there’s different challenges with Griner.”
Liston said the scouting report on the Cowgirls is that they’re comparable to a solid ACC team.
“We just have to come out prepared and play our way,” Liston said. “They are a very skilled team. They play well together, and I think they have some good players at each position that we are going to need to shut down on offense and then get back and rebound and get stops on defense.”
Williams, who blocked three shots against Hampton, knows the challenge.
“Teams are going to have to get into the paint, so it’s really just my job to protect the basket and not let it go in there,” Williams said. “That’s what I’m there for. Defensively, I just want to be a force.”
The Blue Devils are treating the matchup with OSU at Cameron as if it were a road game, Jones said, personally taking the approach that the NCAA Tournament simply is one more opportunity to play one more game.
“That’s how I’m taking it so far,” Jones said. “That next game that we have to win, and this could be our last game.”