These days, Duke doesn’t win a game without beating its opponent by double digits. Thursday night’s ACC opener was no exception.
The No. 4 Blue Devils (7-0, 1-0 in the ACC) beat Georgia Tech 85-52, controlling the game from the opening tip all the way to the final whistle.
“We’re trying to work towards what we’re trying to get to, if that makes any sense,” Duke head coach Joanne P. McCallie said. “When we have three players with 11 rebounds, that’s the general idea. Just trying to be aggressive from all spots.”
The Blue Devils went on a 19-6 run in the first eight minutes of the first half, and the Yellow Jackets (3-5, 0-1 ACC) faced a double-digit deficit for the rest of the game.
Sophomore center Elizabeth Williams and junior guard Tricia Liston led the way for Duke in the first half, scoring 12 and 11 points, respectively. Junior Forward Haley Peters added seven points of her own in the opening frame, and pulled down six boards.
The Blue Devils dominated every aspect of the opening half except for rebounding efficiency. Georgia Tech reeled in 12 offensive boards to Duke’s seven, but the Yellow Jackets could only convert their hard work on the glass into six second-chance points.
Facing a 14-point halftime deficit, Georgia Tech came out of the locker room and started the second frame with an 8-4 run, cutting the Blue Devil lead to 10.
“That’s just not a good thing, the way we came out of the locker room,” McCallie said. “I don’t know about that, why that occurred. But I will say the response was excellent.”
After trading baskets back and forth, junior guard Chelsea Gray took over for Duke. A mid-range jumper put the Blue Devils up by 14 with just under 15 minutes left in the half. On Duke’s next two possessions, Gray converted one of two free throws and scored a contested layup in transition to put the Blue Devils up by 17.
A Blue Devil steal led to another fastbreak, which Gray finished off with an acrobatic score in the paint, and Duke assumed a 20-point lead with 13:28 left in the second half. The Yellow Jackets failed to mount a serious comeback effort the rest of the game.
“You have to pour it on,” McCallie said. “It’s hard to play 40 minutes. We certainly didn’t completely do that tonight, but we learned from that. I thought what was key was getting through that and moving forward, and Chelsea was a huge part of that.”
In Chloe Wells’ second game back after a second-semester suspension during the 2011-2012 season and an injury early this season, the junior guard scored her first points of the year. Wells finished with eight points, an assist and a rebound in just 14 minutes of play.
“Fantastically happy,” McCallie said about Wells’ performance. “We all are—for Chloe. If she keeps up this rate, 14 minutes and eight points, she’s really going to be a star. She is very efficient with her attacking and scoring and her ball handling. It’s great to have ball handlers out there, and it’s an important part of the game. She was just terrific off the bench, and I know we’re all happy about it. She’s been working a long time for this.”
Sophomore guard Ka’lia Johnson provided big minutes coming off the bench for McCallie, scoring nine points and grabbing 11 boards.
Williams finished with a team-high 25 points, 11 rebounds and six blocks—her first double-double of the year, after registering five last season. Williams’ 32 minutes played were a season high, as she has been limited due to a lingering stress fracture from last season.
Peters added 11 points of her own and pulled down 11 boards for her second career double-double.
“Haley and I always talk about who is going to get more rebounds,” Williams said. “It was nice for us to try and dominate in the post today.”
Although forced to sit for long stretches of the second half with four fouls, Gray added 13 points, six steals and five assists.
The Blue Devils’ stifling defense held Georgia Tech to a season-low 28.6 field goal percentage.
“We’re not going to play on anybody’s court that is tougher than Duke’s,” Yellow Jacket head coach MaChelle Joseph said. “This is it. This is the top of the pinnacle.”