STORRS, Conn.—Duke has gone 0-6 against Connecticut during the tenure of head coach Joanne P. McCallie, often displaying a lack of consistency between halves. Monday night was no exception.
The No. 4 Blue Devils (17-1) were crushed by the No. 3 Huskies (16-1) 79-49 Monday night at Gampel Pavillion. The final score shows a 30-point blowout, but it was a tale of two halves for the Blue Devils, who entered halfitme trailing by just two.
A lack of consistency from half-to-half has plagued Duke all season. This deficiency on both ends of the court was certainly on display against the Huskies.
“We got away with that one half play earlier in the season. Whether it was starting out strong and ending badly or staring out badly and ending strong,” center Elizabeth Williams said. “We’re going to definitely learn from it, and we definitely needed to be more physical and come out with more passion than we did today.”
While the Huskies were held to 32 points in the first half, they scored 47 in the second half on 50-percent shooting from the field on 10 more shot attempts. In contrast, the Blue Devils scored 30 in the first half while only netting 19 in the second half off 12 fewer shots and 35-percent shooting from the floor.
Although the Connecticut had the same number of turnovers as Duke, the Huskies outrebounded the Blue Devils by nearly 20, with 44 rebounds in comparison to Duke’s 25. Connecticut guard Kelly Faris grabbed 12 rebounds, seven of which were on the offensive end, matching the entire Blue Devil squad for offensive rebounding.
“It’s a tale of two halves for us. It’s very consistent for us. It’s the way we’ve been playing all year. So it’s more of the same. We played some great 20-minute basketball,” head coach Joanne P. McCallie said. “In a classic case of not getting back on defense, they’re transition got them going. Initially in the second half we slept walked through that episode when they simply made layups. When you allow that to occur, anything is possible.”
The bright spot in the game for Duke was the play of freshman guard Alexis Jones, who matched a career-high with 14 points and led the team in scoring. She also paced the team with four assists.
The majority of Jones’ scoring and efficient play happened in the first half, leading to a two-point deficit for the Blue Devils at halftime. Her play in the second half, however, was limited by foul trouble and missed opportunities on the offensive end.
Without a steady offensive presence from Jones and her back-court counter-part Chelsea Gray, the Blue Devils were overcome in the second half by Connecticut’s deep lineup.
“I let my foul trouble get to me, and I shouldn’t have let the foul trouble get to me. I should have kept playing,” Jones said. “It kind of carried on. I missed a lot of shots I should have made, too.”
Gray, who has been an integral part to Duke’s season thus far, was held in check by the Husky defense. She scored just two points on 1-of-6 shooting from the floor with four assists.
“They gave a lot extra attention to Chelsea,” McCallie said. “I knew they would. [Alexis] was huge in the first half that way because she took full advantage of that. I think it waned as the game went on though.”
The disparity between Duke’s play was clear to the Huskies, who were surprised by the Blue Devils’ early intensity but rallied at halftime to overcome it. At halftime Connecticut head coach Geno Auriemma noted the aspects of his team’s game that improved going into the second half.
“When you hold somebody to 30 points we should be a lot more in tune. They’re a really good defensive team,” Auriemma said. “We didn’t perform as well on the offensive end. We kind of missed a lot of opportunities. If we can do better with offensive rebounding then we can do better.”
The Huskies had a total of 14 offensive rebounds in the game, leading to multiple shooting opportunities each time down the court. The Blue Devils were simply overmatched in the second half after fighting to keep the game close early on. Duke, which came into the game undefeated this season, faced its first true test against a Connecticut squad that suffered its only loss to No. 2 Notre Dame.
For a team that has struggled to maintain a level of consistency between halves all season, the loss to Connecticut served as a wake-up call that they must play an entire 40 minutes in order to compete against upper echelon opponents.
“In the locker room we were pretty motivated and early in the second half we did get some good shots that we missed,” Williams said. “Instead of taking that and moving forward we fell back, instead of taking the adversity and playing.”