PG Chelsea Gray sets Duke assist mark in rout of Clemson
Facing struggling Clemson, Duke rarely looked like one of the nation’s top-5 women’s basketball teams for a large portion of Thursday night’s game.
Once Blue Devils guard Chelsea Gray began looking like the nation’s top point guard, though, things changed quickly.
En route to a school-record 15 assists, Gray keyed a second-half stretch where Duke scored 22 consecutive points that led to an 82-45 ACC win for No. 4 Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Gray’s record-setting game came on the heels of her second career triple-double, which she recorded at Boston College on Sunday. The junior didn’t match that 18-point, 11-rebound, 10-assist effort. But her playmaking against Clemson (4-11, 0-4) was nearly as breathtaking.
“Chelsea is the best passer in the game, male or female, at the collegiate level,” Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie said. “There is no question about this and I think it’s important that people recognize this because most people would think it would be a man doing that.”
Clemson got an eyeful.
Unable to find a flow on offense while lacking its usual defensive intensity, Duke (14-0, 4-0) held a slim 36-30 lead early in the second half. But over the next seven minutes, while Clemson failed to score, Gray led an onslaught.
Off Duke’s 10 field goals during a 22-0 run, Gray either scored or assisted on eight of them. Even on one of the baskets she didn’t do that, her steal set up teammate Ka’lia Johnson’s breakaway layup.
“I felt a sense of urgency,” Gray said of that dominant stretch. “We weren’t playing our best Duke basketball at that point. I was getting the lanes. I was able to drop it off to Elizabeth (Williams) or another teammate or kick it out and we were able to get the shots in.”
Williams, Duke’s all-American sophomore center, took advantage of Gray’s passing to score a game-high 21 points. During the 22-0 run, she converted three layups off nifty Gray passes.
“I thought it was so fun,” Williams said. “Chelsea is the type of player that if you make a play on the defensive end and get that block she’ll reward you. It’s always nice. I love playing with her. I think our teammates feed off that momentum as well.”
Juniors Haley Peters and Tricia Liston each scored 14 points for Duke. Peters made 6 of 7 shots, while Liston contributed three 3-pointers.
After Duke scored the game’s first seven points, Clemson coach Itoro Coleman was impressed as her team played the Blue Devils even for the next 20 minutes of game clock.
Once Gray began asserting herself as the best player on the court, that all changed.
“Chelsea Gray is a good player and what makes her great is her vision on the court,” Coleman said. “She did a good job of beating the post players. She found people that were at the basket. She has a great eye.”
Clearly irritated with her team’s play in the first half, which she called “casual”, McCallie praised the Blue Devils for their second-half approach.
“I think the team came out on a mission to play our game,” McCallie said. “It’s important to play our game. We were much more efficient on offense. We actually ran things. We got the ball inside and created, and Chelsea led us in that direction. Defensively, we were more intense.”
No. 4 Duke 82, Clemson 45
Percentages: FG .340, FT .400. 3-Point Goals: 5-13, .385 (Turner 3-6, Dixon 1-2, Gramlich 1-2, Tay 0-3). Team Rebounds: 5. Blocked Shots: 1 (Dixon). Turnovers: 26 (Turner 9, Dixon 3, Jamison-Myers 3, Tay 3, Dunn 2, Ford 2, Pettaway 2, Gramlich). Steals: 13 (Turner 4, Tay 3, Dixon 3, Pettaway 2, Ford). Technical Fouls: None.
Percentages: FG .579, FT .688. 3-Point Goals: 5-13, .385 (Liston 3-6, Wells 2-2, Gray 0-1, Jones 0-1, Jackson 0-3). Team Rebounds: 3. Blocked Shots: 6 (Williams 4, Jones 2). Turnovers: 19 (Gray 4, Vernerey 3, Liston 2, Williams 2, Peters 2, Jones 2, Johnson, Frush, Jackson, Wells). Steals: 16 (Gray 5, Wells 3, Jackson 2, Peters 2, Jones 2, Johnson, Vernerey). Technical Fouls: None.
A—4,394. Officials—Edward Sidlasky, Bruce Morris, Taiqua Stewart.