Gray, Blue Devils bounce Terps
Up to a point, Monday night’s battle of top-10 women’s basketball teams between Duke and Maryland was filled with stumbles and fumbles, missed shots and body blows.
The point when it changed came when Chelsea Gray, Duke’s smooth point guard, exerted herself all over the court.
Gray put Duke in front for good with a 3-pointer, part of seven consecutive points she scored as the No. 5 Blue Devils took control late to beat No. 7 Maryland 71-56 in a physical ACC game at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
“For Chelsea, I love to see her elevate her game the way she did,” ” Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie said.
Gray scored a career-best 28 points, boosted by her 13-for-14 performance from the free throw line. The junior point guard had 15 points over the final 8:42 when Duke (22-1, 12-0 ACC) turned a one-point deficit into yet another double-digit win in ACC play.
“To be able to do the things she did on the floor, especially with the attention she was drawing, I think is phenomenal,” McCallie said. “I guess (it is) an important message to her about her ability to elevate in such a physical game.”
Neither Duke nor Maryland (19-4, 10-2) shot well or played effective offensively. The Blue Devils shot 37.1 percent and turned the ball over 16 times. Maryland shot 34.4 percent and had 24 turnovers.
Between them, they were called for 31 fouls, which it appears wasn’t enough for Maryland coach Brenda Frese. She picked up two technical fouls and was ejected with 3:51 to play for pointed comments to the officials about how the game was being called.
“I am always going to fight for our players; that is obvious,” Frese said. “If I see a concern that one of our players is going to be injured, which given our numbers, that is going to be a concern. I am always going to fight for our kids, to protect them with any type of play that would cause injury.”
Gray sank four free throws as a result of the double technical and Frese’s ejection, and Duke pushed its lead into double-digits for good at 63-50.
But it was her play about five minutes earlier that turned the game.
After Duke led by as many as 10 points in the first half, Maryland clawed back within 31-28 at halftime.
The Terrapins took their only lead of the game, 44-42, when Chloe Pavlech sank a 3-pointer with 10:51 left.
Maryland still led as the clock ticked below nine minutes before Gray’s 3-pointer with 8:42 left gave Duke the lead.
After Maryland’s Alyssa Thomas missed a jumper, Gray was fouled at the other end of the court and sank two free throws.
With 7:45 to play, she stole a Maryland pass, then drove for a layup to complete her seven-point spurt and put the Blue Devils in front 49-44.
“Obviously, she is an extremely difficult matchup,” Frese said. “She is strong. She is physical. She definitely had her way with us.”
In a game where both teams struggled to find offensive footing, Gray’s play made the difference for Duke. That was particularly true during the key stretch of the second half.
“She gave us a little psychological boost,” McCallie said. “It was great. It wasn’t surprising, though. We’ve all see this of Chelsea. She’s a great player and it’s great to see her have those moments and take advantage of them.”
Sophomore center Elizabeth Williams contributed 16 points and 10 rebounds, while junior forward Tricia Liston came off the bench to score 17 for Duke.
Defensively, the Blue Devils held Maryland’s Tianna Hawkins, the ACC’s leading scorer at 19.6 points per game, to six points. Alyssa Thomas scored 14 for Maryland, but she did so while making only 4 of 19 shots.
Hawkins and Thomas combined to go 7-of-30 from the field. The Terrapins were also hurt by the nine turnovers by Pavlech, a freshman point guard.
“We tried to really, as much as we could, pressure her,” McCallie said.
It worked. On Duke’s side of things, Gray couldn’t be stopped as easily.
No. 5 Duke 71, No. 7 Maryland 56
Percentages: FG .344, FT .727. 3-Point Goals: 6-16, .375 (Rutan 4-12, Pavlech 2-3, Thomas 0-1). Team Rebounds: 3. Blocked Shots: 5 (Thomas 2, Howard, Rutan, DeVaughn). Turnovers: 24 (Pavlech 9, Hawkins 5, DeVaughn 3, Thomas 3, Howard 2, Rutan 2). Steals: 6 (Hawkins 3, Pavlech, Thomas, Rutan). Technical Fouls: Bench 2.
Percentages: FG .371, FT .955. 3-Point Goals: 4-14, .286 (Gray 3-7, Liston 1-3, Jones 0-1, Jackson 0-1, Wells 0-2). Team Rebounds: 4. Blocked Shots: 3 (Williams 2, Vernerey). Turnovers: 16 (Jones 4, Peters 3, Vernerey 3, Wells 2, Gray 2, Liston, Jackson). Steals: 14 (Gray 4, Wells 3, Jones 2, Liston 2, Vernerey 2, Peters).
A—6,254. Officials—Dee Kantner, Denise Brooks, Cameron Inouye.