Duke welcomed in the new year with a win to close out nonconference play.
The No. 3 Blue Devils kicked off 2014 by beating Old Dominion 87-63 Thursday at Cameron Indoor Stadium. The Blue Devils had not played since their Dec. 22 win at Kentucky, but the team had no trouble returning from its 10-day break from competition. Alongside stellar performances from the starters were significant contributions from bench players that gave Duke a comfortable lead that lasted all night.
“It was a really good game for us, and I was really proud of the bench. Thirty-three points from the bench against [Old Dominion’s] 19,” Duke head coach Joanne P. McCallie said. “That’s good for us as we try to get better.”
The bench impact began shortly after Old Dominion (6-7) took the lead at 12-11 five minutes into the game. Entering the game following a media timeout, freshman forward Oderah Chidom became a second threat in the paint along with junior center Elizabeth Williams, stretching out the Monarch defense. Just two minutes after play resumed, Chidom capitalized on an old-fashioned three-point play to give Duke (13-1) back the lead, one it would never relinquish. After playing just three minutes in her previous game, Chidom finished the day with 13 points, just three shy of her career high.
“Oderah’s very talented… She’s very good off the bounce, and she’s a great rebounder,” McCallie said. “If we can get that consistently, then we can be a very special team, so I’m happy for her.”
Freshman center Kendall McCravey-Cooper and junior guard Ka’lia Johnson also contributed to the impressive bench effort. Cooper shot a perfect 3-for-3 from the field, and Johnson notched a season-high six rebounds along with her seven points.
“If I have an open shot, I’m going to take it,” Johnson said. “But I’m more worried about getting that stop, getting that key rebound to give us the momentum on defense and turn that defense into offense.”
Duke’s offense certainly did not disappoint. The Blue Devils shot a season-high 62 percent from the field in the first half, led by senior forward Tricia Liston, whose 17 points led the team and all came before halftime. The Monarchs pushed the tempo in the opening minutes and scored on fast-break opportunities, but Liston kept Duke ahead with two 3-pointers and a layup in the first five minutes of the game.
“I thought Tricia was a key force in the first half, she really got us off to a great start,” McCallie said. “She’s a smart player.”
Old Dominion did its best to slow Liston’s scoring speed on the court, but the damage done in the first half was enough to keep Duke on top. Liston shot 75 percent from the field and has now made 202 three-pointers in her career.
Williams dominated both ends of the court, racking up 12 rebounds and 12 points for her first double-double of the season. Williams, along with Johnson and senior guard Chloe Wells, were up against a familiar opponent in Old Dominion’s sophomore guard Galaisha Goodhope. The athletes all competed on the same team in various AAU and high school competitions—Williams and Goodhope won a state championship together in 2011 at Princess Anne High School in Virginia Beach, Va.
“I played with Elizabeth in high school and in AAU, and I know a lot of her tendencies, I know what she likes to do,” Goodhope said. “Elizabeth’s a great player, but everybody has flaws, so I tried to give [my teammates] some flaws that they could act upon—she still had a great game, but we played her pretty well.”
Keeping the game close for Old Dominion was sophomore guard LaQuanda Younger, who had a career-high 15 points, 12 of which came in the first half. Junior forward Tiffany Minor took over in the second half, lighting up the scoreboard with four 3-pointers and 20 total points. The Monarchs’ usual leading scorer, junior forward Shea Kelley, was held to only six points on the evening.
“I know that we held [Kelley] pretty well, and that was a credit to the entire team,” McCallie said. “It was bothersome that we didn’t locate [Younger]…two people did all the damage for them—we really got ourselves out of position.”
While these defensive flaws did not deter the Blue Devils from rolling to its 64th consecutive win at home against an unranked opponent, the squad must look ahead to conference play that begins Sunday on the road against Georgia Tech.
“I think we’re very well prepared, I think we’ve played a great schedule, and I think now we get into a little bit of a rotation,” McCallie said. “Every game is hard, I think we understand that, we’re in a tough conference. The only way a game is going to be easy is if we make it that way.”