Despite the bright orange uniforms of the visiting Tigers, Cameron Indoor Stadium was overwhelmed with gray. Chelsea Gray, that is. The junior recorded a career-high 15 assists, as the No. 4 Blue Devils used a second half scoring blitz to take down Clemson 82-45.
Despite entering the match as significant underdogs, the Tigers (4-11, 0-4 in the ACC) refused to back down in the first half. Short scoring spurts did not faze the Clemson guards, as Charmaine Tay and Aisha Turner racked up six assists and helped break down Duke’s press defense. The Tigers were also impressive from beyond the arc, shooting 4-6 and converting on several second-chance opportunities.
Gray’s seven assists helped Duke (14-0, 4-0) maintain a comfortable margin. No-look passes found sophomore Elizabeth Williams and junior Haley Peters in the low block, while the Duke defense forced eight turnovers and had five blocked shots. It was Williams’ 46th consecutive game with at least one block.
Though the Blue Devils still led by eight at the half, Duke head coach Joanne P. McCallie was disappointed with her team’s lackluster rebounding and slow tempo.
“We played kind of casual in the first half,” McCallie said. “We took some quick shots, we didn’t rebound, there was a casual nature to what we were doing. I know the team felt it, and what’s great is that they did something about it.”
Three minutes into the second half, Gray took over. The run began with a dish to junior Tricia Liston, who knocked down an open three-pointer near the top of the key. After a missed shot from Clemson, Gray scored one of her own with a floater from just outside the lane. The junior then stripped the ball from Tay and laid the ball in to put Duke up 43-30 with 15:08 remaining in the half.
A behind-the-back pass from Gray to Williams on the following possession sent Cameron Indoor into a frenzy. The California native wasn’t finished though, and stole the ball to set up Peters and Williams for back-to-back buckets. Gray capped a 22-0 run with a layup, putting the Blue Devils up 58-30 eight minutes into the second half of the game.
“I felt a sense of urgency,” Gray said. “We weren’t playing the best Duke basketball at that point…. Momentum shifted towards our way, so I just kept going at it.”
With the game out of reach and several starters taking a breather, the Duke bench stepped up. Junior Chloe Wells was particularly impressive, knocking down two three-pointers and forcing three turnovers. There was also a major improvement in rebounding, as senior Allison Vernerey registered five boards and the team limited second chance points for Clemson.
Despite leading by just eight at the half, the Blue Devils came out of the locker room on a mission and put the pedal down after the break. McCallie said she was pleased with how her squad responded in the second half.
“The team came out on a mission… ready to [play our game],” McCallie said. “We were much more efficient on offense—we actually ran things, got the ball inside-out and created. And defensively we were more intense. We were pressuring the ball more and causing them a little bit more discomfort. It was an intensity thing, not necessarily a technical thing.”