Duke too tough for Terps
As ineffective as No. 7 Duke’s defensive play had been in the Blue Devils’ rare Cameron Indoor Stadium losing streak, evidence of marked improvement came immediately Monday night.
No. 8 Maryland’s first six possessions resulted in zero Terrapins points, a far cry from the basket-a-minute pace Notre Dame and North Carolina kept up when they visited Duke over the last two weeks.
And after that good start, the Blue Devils never let up, holding Maryland to its worst shooting night of the season to post an 84-63 ACC women’s basketball win.
“I’m really proud of the team and our defensive effort,” Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie said. “A great 40-minute effort for our team defensively.”
McCallie’s assessment has turned 180 degrees since the last time Duke played a game. On Feb. 10, North Carolina blistered the Blue Devils 89-78. On Feb. 2, unbeaten Notre Dame routed Duke 88-67.
Those losses marked Duke’s first two-game losing streak at Cameron since 1994.
A team meeting the day after the UNC loss set the stage for the Blue Devils’ turnaround.
“We had a harsh discussion,” McCallie said.
Duke (23-3, 10-2 in ACC) took two days off from practice and turned in three strong practices over the weekend in preparation for Maryland.
With Duke showing passion and intensity on defense, the Terrapins (20-5, 8-4) shot a season-low 32.4 percent. Their 63 points tied for their lowest output in an ACC game this season.
“Tough night at the office, obviously, when you shoot the percentage we did (last night) and give it up on both ends off the floor,” Maryland coach Brenda Frese said. “I thought Duke was fantastic. I thought they showed a lot of character bouncing back.”
Maryland turned the ball over only 11 times but nearly all were a direct result of Duke’s defense as the Blue Devils recorded 10 steals.
“We were really aggressive on the defensive end,” Duke sophomore guard Alexis Jones said. “People were flying and jumping at the ball. We were all aggressive, helping each other out a lot, which we worked on a lot in practice. Helping each other a lot makes us better on the defensive end.”
Jones did her part on both ends of the court, scoring a game-high 22 points while sinking five 3-pointers. She also recorded four of Duke’s 12 assists.
“Lex was very smart and very competitive,” McCallie said. “She was very smart and did many, many good things.”
Frese noticed Jones’ confidence.
“I thought she was fantastic,” Frese said. “She played with a ton of poise. You could see that from her swagger on the court.”
While Maryland struggled against Duke’s new commitment to defense, the Blue Devils sank 51.5 percent of their first-half shots to take a 38-31 halftime edge.
Senior Richa Jackson, who scored 19 points, drilled a 3-pointer with 14:07 to play in the game, giving Duke a 49-39 edge.
After Alyssa Thomas (14 points) helped Maryland claw back within five points at 53-48, Duke unleashed a 3-point barrage to score 11 consecutive points and put the game away.
Tricia Liston started the run with a 3-pointer, and Jones made the next two 3-pointers for Duke. Liston’s two free throws with 8:18 left put the Blue Devils in front 64-48.
Elizabeth Williams had a solid all-around game for Duke, scoring 17 points, grabbing 11 rebounds, blocking four shots and matching Jackson for the team lead in steals with four.
“I think the leadership by Lex, by Elizabeth, was outstanding,” McCallie said. “They were balanced and they were fighting. That was the only thing we asked — for everyone to fight for 40 minutes. That’s it.”