ANN ARBOR, Mich.—Before Duke’s ACC/Big 10 Challenge matchup against Michigan Wednesday night, first-year Wolverine head coach Kim Barnes Arico projected that her team would have trouble matching up with the Blue Devils’ size, strength and athleticism.
Arico’s forecast of Michigan’s struggles was right on the mark, as No. 4 Duke (5-0) overwhelmed an overmatched Wolverine squad (5-2) 71-54 at Crisler Center in Ann Arbor, Mich.
“[The Blue Devils] were just so physical—we weren’t able to do anything, and we turned the ball over,” Arico said. “When we turned the basketball over they got easy points in transition.”
Sophomore center Elizabeth Williams and junior point guard Chelsea Gray carried Duke with 19 points apiece. Williams limited Michigan’s leading scorer, senior Rachel Sheffer, to eight points on the night—a little over half her 14.9 points-per-game average. 6-foot-3 Williams’ height advantage played a role on both ends of the court.
“Size definitely helps,” she said. “You just try to be a big presence defensively, and then offensively just posting up strong and running the floor.”
Fresh off a blowout win against Xavier, the Blue Devils started the game in dominant fashion. With 6:41 remaining in the opening half, they led the Wolverines 34-17.
But Michigan held the Blue Devils scoreless for the rest of the period, trimming their advantage to three points by the end of the first half. In that span, Duke turned the ball over four straight times.
The Blue Devils quickly overpowered Michigan in the second half, however, earning back their double-digit lead within less than three minutes.
“They started the game full-court man-to-man, pressuring us like crazy,” Arico said. “We got super tight and turned the basketball over. Later in the first half they went to their zone, they went to their trap—they switched it up, and we were able to score out of that. To start the second-half, they went back to that man-on-man, which gave us our most difficult time.”
Duke took its early double-digit lead in the second half and ran with it, cruising to a 71-54 victory. The Blue Devils’ savvy defense kept the Wolverines from crawling back into the game.
“[Duke] kind of gets you into places on the court you don’t want to be in and trap hard, and they use their length and athleticism really well,” Michigan senior guard Jenny Ryan said. “It’s not so much quick as it is smart.”
Arico considered her team’s quick shots the equivalent of turnovers, because Duke was quick to run the ball down the offensive end after the Wolverines made hasty baskets. Consequently, Michigan focused on utilizing the shot clock as much as possible.
“If we took something really fast, [the Blue Devils] were going down the other way very quickly, and we couldn’t keep up that pace with their speed and athleticism,” Arico said. “I know it sounds crazy, but we were okay using the shot clock as long as we weren’t turning the ball over.”
The Blue Devils’ speed and athleticism will be key Sunday afternoon when they take on No. 10 California—their first ranked opponent of the season—at home in Cameron Indoor Stadium.