As the Blue Devils lined up to shake hands before their annual Blue-White scrimmage, the team was all smiles as they greeted their opponents, a scout team of male Duke students.
No. 3 Duke came out firing on all cylinders early in the contest, but in the second half the scout team overtook the Blue Devils and pulled out a last-second 70-69 victory at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Many teams use these scrimmages to be flashy and exercise their will on offense. Head coach Joanne P. McCallie reminded her team earlier in the week that basketball is not just an offensive game. This mentality showed, as barely a minute into the game, center Elizabeth Williams went diving over cheerleaders and into a row of chairs for a loose ball.
Williams, who was a strong presence in the post and on the boards defensively, saw her time limited. The sophomore is still nursing a foot injury, and was held to just 15 minutes of playing time.
“That was major progress for us,” McCallie said of the reigning National Freshman of the Year. “She’s an All-American, she’s pretty valuable.”
Williams was not the only Blue Devil held out due to injury. Freshman forward Katie Heckman is out for the season with an ACL injury, and guards Chloe Wells and Richa Jackson were also sidelined.
“We have half the team out.” McCallie said. “We’re working with a small group right now.”
The game belonged to junior guards Chelsea Gray and Tricia Liston in practically every statistical category. Gray led the team in steals and assists with four and eight, respectively, while tying Liston in rebounds with six. Liston led the team with 18 points, and Gray was close behind with 17.
An area in which the scouts succeeded and the Blue Devils struggled was second-half shooting. The scout team shot 47.5 percent from the field and 50 percent from behind the arc, while Duke posted subpar numbers of 34.6 and 36.4, respectively.
The second half also saw both teams making use of the 3-2 zone. The Blue Devils found holes in the middle of the scout defense but settled for quick, forced shots, and ultimately relied on outside jumpers, which proved unsuccessful.
The scouts had a harder time finding any success in the paint in the early going, but Duke’s zone finally showed some cracks, namely through baseline penetration by the scouts’ big men and kick outs to the corners for some costly three pointers.
“I think that this film is going to show it, the inability on open shots, just to get there,” McCallie said. “We’ve got to be more proactive, and I believe we will, because I believe this film will be nauseating.”
Overall, with the exception of Williams’ early play and an instant in which Liston dove to the court for a loose ball, Duke lacked aggressiveness as a team. McCallie pointed out the team’s lack of an on-court leader as a potential problem, and pointed to Gray as the one who needs to step up for the team. “Chels is a good teammate,” McCallie said. “But she has got to be in people’s faces early, not so much after the fact.”
The Blue Devils will face off against reigning Division II champions, Shaw, this Tuesday in Cameron Indoor Stadium at 7 p.m.
“We play [the scout team] everyday in practice,” Gray said. “I’m personally excited to go out there and play someone different.”