WINSTON-SALEM, N.C.—After Duke’s men’s basketball team dropped its first game of the season on Saturday, the Blue Devil women’s team was determined not to see its perfect record blemished by a hot Wake Forest team that entered Sunday’s contest on a four-game winning streak.
And No. 4 Duke had no problem beating the Demon Deacons, winning 73-44 at Joel Coliseum as the only undefeated team in Division I men’s or women’s basketball. The loss was Wake Forest’s first at Joel Coliseum this season.
The Demon Deacons (9-7, 2-2 in the ACC) entered the contest with high hopes, as Lakevia Boykin had just led them with 34 points in their recent victory against No. 18 Florida State, and they were looking to knock off another ranked team in Duke.
In the end, talent and execution beat out youth and hustle, as Duke’s smothering defense forced 23 Wake Forest turnovers and produced 12 steals. The Blue Devils were able to capitalize, scoring 26 points off turnovers.
“We always try to bring a lot of pressure. I know our point guards always try to pick up the guards really early,” Duke center Elizabeth Williams said. “Us on the back line, we have to stay and help and just continue to be active, so I think we did a pretty good job of that.”
Duke (15-0, 5-0) held the Demon Deacons to 22 points in each half and broke the game open in the second half, scoring 40 points.
The Blue Devils began the game well, jumping out to an 8-1 advantage and never relinquishing the lead for the remainder of the game. Duke head coach Joanne P. McCallie allowed Williams to go to work in the paint in the first half, and she finished the period with 12 points and five rebounds. She finished with 18 points, four blocks and seven rebounds.
“Elizabeth is feeling more comfortable, even when people are climbing on her arms,” McCallie said. “She’s getting her balance back.”
Length was a constant problem for the Demon Deacons, who struggled to defend well against the larger Duke team. Williams, a sophomore, gave Wake Forest problems in the post, as she used her presence to attract a double-team and would proceed to kick the ball out to the team’s perimeter players.
The Demon Deacons’ offense did not let the Blue Devils size deter them in the first half, as they took advantage of Duke’s lack of help defense, driving to the lane and knocking down several easy layups.
Neither team had an issue with getting open shots, as they displayed strong ball movement, but both struggled to knock down their open shots, with Wake Forest and Duke going 1-of-4 and 1-for-5 from behind the 3-point line, respectively.
The difference was the Blue Devils’ ability to force 14 first-half turnovers, allowing them to cash in on fastbreak opportunities, while only giving it up seven times themselves.
Although the Blue Devils led almost the entire game, they failed to lengthen their lead to greater than 12 in the first half due to missed opportunities, including four missed layups.
Duke often settled for fadeaway hook shots or step back jumpers, resulting in no free throw attempts for the first 12:42.
“We didn’t do a lot of things in the first half, but I think we did a good job of adjusting,” Williams said.
Duke, which was outrebounded in the first half 18-17 by Wake Forest, came out much more aggressive on the boards in the second half. The Blue Devils finished the game outrebounding Wake Forest 38-30 and with 17 second-chance points, compared to six for the Demon Deacons.
“Rebounding is still an area where we’re not getting enough of them,” McCallie said. “We outrebounded them by eight. We want it to be more like 15 or 20 and really dominate the boards.”
The Blue Devils’ Chloe Wells and Tricia Liston finally helped Duke find its rhythm from behind the arc, as the two knocked down back-to-back 3-pointers to extend Duke’s lead to 18 with 10:44 remaining and keying a 10-2 run.
The shots continued to fall for Duke, which finished the game shooting 48.3 percent from the field, including a 5-for-13 performance from behind the arc. Wells led all 3-point shooters with a pair of long-range shots.
The Duke bench, led by Wells and Richa Jackson, who scored 10 points apiece, outscored the Wake Forest bench 23-8. Both Jackson and Wells are returning from injuries and are beginning to see regular action.
“I also loved off the bench, Chloe and Richa off the bench, and their confidence. Just their poise and confidence,” McCallie said. “They know what’s going on out there so we don’t lose anything.”
Although the margin lengthened, neither team let up on its aggressiveness. The Blue Devils continued to pressure Wake Forest’s ball handler at half-court and the Demon Deacons maintained their chippy play, consistently diving to the floor for loose balls and contesting each Duke shot.
But the Blue Devils did not allow Wake Forest’s intensity to outmatch theirs, as they attacked the basket and drew fouls, frustrating the Demon Deacon defense.