After an uninspiring season opening effort, Duke wanted to come out stronger at home. And behind their star players, the Blue Devils did just that.
No. 14 Duke routed Winthrop 78-50 Sunday night at Cameron Indoor Stadium, fueled by a combined 35 points from the dynamic duo of redshirt sophomore Rebecca Greenwell and sophomore Azurá Stevens. Stevens provided 18 points and 14 rebounds for her first double-double of the season, and finished with eight blocks, just two shy of a triple-double.
“Azurá has a lot to offer, and she’s very capable I think, so it’s great to see her being so strong and tough with the ball to get 14 rebounds and eight blocks,” Duke head coach Joanne P. McCallie said. “I thought Becca was playing good defense and was aggressive.”
Greenwell connected on her first three 3-point attempts as Duke (2-0) ran out to a quick 11-2 lead. After only scoring nine points against Pennsylvania, the Owensboro, Ky., native finished with 17 points—14 of which came in the first half—and four rebounds. Finding soft spots in Winthrop’s zone, Greenwell found ample space to operate, shooting 5-of-10 from behind the arc and surpassing 500 points for her career.
When the Eagles (0-2) started to rally in the second quarter, Stevens stepped up her game on both ends of the court. Using her length, the 6-foot-6 forward disrupted Winthrop’s forwards in the post—her career-high eight blocks accounted for half of Duke’s program-record-tying 16 for the game. The eight rejections are also the fifth-most by a single player in program history.
Winthrop junior Erica Williams became the 18th player in Eagle history to reach 1,000 career points, a milestone she reached early in the third quarter. Williams led Winthrop with 17 points on 6-of-12 shooting.
Despite their sluggish start, the Eagles battled back in the second quarter, trimming the Blue Devil lead to as little as three points. Winthrop’s defense frustrated Duke at times, at one point forcing four straight turnovers, but the Blue Devils found their bearings as Stevens began to dominate in the post.
Duke controlled the second half, outscoring Winthrop 37-19. The young Blue Devils impressed after halftime, as they combined for 25 points on the night. Faith Suggs saw her first minutes of the year and Angela Salvadores looked much more comfortable in her second game of the season. Salvadores displayed her play-making abilities, finding an open Stevens for a layup with an over-the-head pass. The Leon, Spain, native ended her night with seven points and four assists.
With noticeably improved ball movement, the Blue Devils were able to find open shots throughout the game. Behind four helpers apiece from Salvadores and classmate Kyra Lambert, Duke registered 18 assists on 28 made baskets.
“I think they are coming along well. I think they are a very mature class. They listen to us when we have things to say and I think they really take it to heart and show it out there,” Greenwell said. “I think they’re doing a really great job, but it’s just going to take a few games to get adjusted and we’re still learning how to play with each other, but it will come along pretty soon.”
With Winthrop’s tallest players standing at 6-foot-2, McCallie switched up her lineup, starting Erin Mathias in favor of Amber Henson. Although both forwards are listed at 6-foot-4, Mathias specializes in post play. Operating primarily in the high post, the sophomore found her teammates for open looks an finished with six points, six rebounds and two assists.
After a poor shooting performance against Pennsylvania Friday, McCallie stressed the need to improve on the team’s overall ball security, but Duke still committed 23 turnovers, though many of those came after the game was in hand.
With a pair of wins to open the year, Duke gets its first test of the season Wednesday, hosting No. 13 Texas A&M at 7 p.m. at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Playing without star center Elizabeth Williams, the Blue Devils blew a double-digit lead in the second half last year in College Station, Texas, against the Aggies, ultimately falling 63-59.
“That was a difficult situation for us, and if I recall, it was a good battle. We played a very good game and almost beat them, but we didn’t,” McCallie said. “Those of us that were there, they remember that. We know how physical they play, and it will be important to take care of the ball.”