The lion might be king of the jungle, but Sunday the Blue Devils were kings of the court.
No. 14 Duke defeated Saint Leo 116-33 Sunday afternoon Cameron Indoor Stadium Sunday in its final exhibition contest. Redshirt sophomore Rebecca Greenwell led all scorers with 26 points, one of six Blue Devils to finish in double-figures. Sophomore Azurá Stevens and junior Kendall Cooper posted double-doubles and freshmen Haley Gorecki and Crystal Primm combined for 30 points.
The Lions’ 42 turnovers did not allow the visitors to stay competitive, but their tenacity on both ends of the ball challenged the Blue Devils, who committed 16 giveaways of their own. Saint Leo did not reach double-digits on the scoreboard until 6:19 remaining in the third quarter.
“I think we got a little bit better today, Duke head coach Joanne P. McCallie said. “This particular scrimmage afforded us the opportunity to really try to push the ball, really try to work on our open sets in broken play situations and defensively we also had to work on some other things too, so that was important to us.”
Although Duke commanded an imposing size advantage in the paint, it was the Blue Devils’ versatile backcourt that provided much of the offense out of the gates. Greenwell and Primm together finished a perfect 5-of-5 from the field to guide Duke to a 34-5 advantage at the end of the first period. Cooper made an early impact on the boards, notching six of her 11 points in the first 10 minutes.
Junior Oderah Chidom—who missed the final 11 games of last season due to a shoulder injury—made an impact from the post early, ending the first quarter with eight points on perfect 4-of-4 shooting. The Oakland, Calif., native remained hot throughout the afternoon, finishing with 16 points on 7-of-8 shooting.
A couple more 3-pointers from Greenwell, combined with efficient play from Cooper and Stevens in the post, pushed the lead to as many as 56 points before the halftime buzzer.
“The team was focused,” McCallie said. “It’s nice to have a good, strong start, but more than that it’s good to play consistent[ly] all the way through. We don’t want to go up and down, we just want to keep climbing and keep putting the pressure on.”
On a day highly touted freshman Angela Salvadores made her debut in a Duke uniform, Greenwell took the reins in the backcourt. The Owensboro, Ky., native finished the day 11-of-16 from the field and added six rebounds and five assists.
With Greenwell at the helm, the strength of the Blue Devils’ revamped transition offense was on full display from the moment the game began. Greenwell and Stevens provided the lion’s share of Duke’s fast break scoring opportunities, combining for nine steals, which teammates converted into 32 transition points.
The successful transition game was directly related to the success of the Blue Devils’ press Sunday—especially in the first two periods. McCallie’s squad held Saint Leo to 3-of-22 shooting in the first half, including a combined 0-of-5 from beyond the arc.
The Lions eventually found their footing around the basket and finished the game shooting at a 25 percent clip, but struggled to correct the lopsided turnover margin. Duke converted those turnovers into 54 points—47 percent of its total offensive output on the day.
Saint Leo head coach Missy West said that she was disappointed that her team played scared against the Blue Devils in the first half, but praised her team for showing that they can compete down the stretch.
West—who was once a Duke player herself, capturing ACC tournament titles and appearing in the 1999 national championship game—is more than familiar with Duke’s campus and the floorboards at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
But West said that this visit was different than all the others.
“It’s great to honestly be a coach against Duke. I wasn’t sure if in my career that would ever happen,” West said. “I’m really excited about what [the Blue Devils] are going to do. I support them all year long. They have a really good group of girls…it’s time to capture [a championship].”
In her first appearance after resting much of the preseason following a busy summer of international competition, Salvadores showed some signs of rust. The Leon, Spain, product finished with nine points on 3-of-9 shooting and chipped in five assists.
The Blue Devils rested graduate student Amber Henson Sunday after the forward tweaked her leg earlier in the year. The Tampa, Fla., native was granted an extra year of eligibility from the NCAA, and Duke is looking to take full advantage of that extra year when the season starts Friday.
Although the Blue Devils struggled with injuries in recent seasons, the squad is by and large healthy now, aside from Henson’s lingering leg injury. Duke will need all of its players healthy if the offense is to execute McCallie’s plans.
“With the kind of basketball that we want to play, with the up-tempo style offensively and the pressing and running and all the neat things occurring today, we have to have players who can go,” McCallie said. “We need to have 10 strong. This team is going to develop as a USA team if we do it right, meaning…we should have that kind of depth and that kind of power with our creativity.”
The Blue Devils kick off their season Friday with a trip to Philadelphia to take on Pennsylvania at 8 p.m. at the historic Palestra.