The Blue Devils’ trip to the Duke Cancer Institute fundraiser Sweet Night in Durham may have been postponed by snow Friday, but their well-rounded 80-56 victory against Boston College was a big enough treat to hold them over until Sunday night.
No. 4 Duke beat a persistent Boston College team 80-56 to remain undefeated in the ACC. The Eagles stayed with the Blue Devils and were down just 21-17 with 10 minutes to play in the first half, but Duke’s subsequent 9-0 run propelled it ahead for good.
“I thought we had a great two halves with great defense,” Duke head coach Joanne P. McCallie said. “Offensively, we were sharp in the first half, a little bit less so in the second half, but overall, I loved the offensive balance and productivity.”
A dominant offense characterized the Blue Devils’ (18-1, 8-0 in the ACC) first half, with both junior guards Chloe Wells and Tricia Liston going 4-of-4 from the field. Liston, who came off the bench for the second game in a row with cold symptoms, ended the first half with 12 points, all of which came off 3-point shots. Duke shot 8-of-10 from downtown going into halftime.
On the other side of the ball, Duke outrebounded Boston College (8-11, 2-6) 47-28. Junior forward Haley Peters was responsible for 13 of the Blue Devils’ rebounds, snagging 10 on the defensive end.
“I’m just trying to rebound more and more consistently this year for our team, it’s really important, and that’s been my main focus,” Peters said. “[Ten defensive rebounds] is probably the most [I’ve had] in college. I probably got more of them in high school. I’ll keep building on that.”
In addition, junior guard Chelsea Gray expertly outmaneuvered Boston College with her masterful ball handling skills. Gray set the tempo for a Duke squad that Eagles head coach Erik Johnson said was simply too fast for his team to match up with.
“They did a great job,” Johnson said. “Their hands were everywhere, and they made it difficult for our penetrators to get by them. They had hands at every passer and made it really difficult for us to get our shooters open. It’s hard to shoot when you have hands in your face.”
Although their offense diminished slightly in the second half, the Blue Devils continued their balanced game. Five players ended the game in double figures, including Peters, who notched her fourth double-double of the season, and Wells, who scored a season-high 13 points.
Wells’ outing was her best since being away from the team for a portion of last season. She was suspended for the entire 2012 Spring semester for violating university policy, and she suffered a leg injury soon after her return. Her 3-0 assist to turnover ratio, coupled with her three steals and offensive dominance, were especially significant to her and Duke.
“[Today] was important,” Wells said. “I just feel grateful that I’m back and that I have the opportunity to play again. Every day I just go hard whether it’s on the court or off the court with my teammates.”
The cherry on top of Duke’s many successes: The Blue Devils were visited by the 2003 women’s basketball team, which reached the Final Four and won the ACC Championship. The two teams had dinner together Friday night, allowing for many of the current players to come face-to-face with their idols.
“I’ve followed Duke since I was born,” Peters said. “So I used to watch all of them. I came to [Duke basketball] camps, and I remember all of them. They told us they’ve been following us and to just keep working, learning from the games we’ve played so far, and how fun it was for them.”
At the midway mark of ACC play, and with contests against both Miami and North Carolina next week, the Blue Devils can learn a lot from their performance against Boston College after a season in which they have struggled to put together strong back-to-back halves: That complete, balanced offensive and defensive efforts can lead to sweet, sweet victories.