In their first game action of the season, the Blue Devils did not impress their coach at all.
Following a far-from-perfect performance in their annual Blue/White scrimmage on Sunday, Duke will look to improve when they host Glenville State Wednesday night for an exhibition matchup at 6:30 p.m. at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
“We calculated only six minutes overall that had any value to the way we want to play as a team,” head coach Joanne P. McCallie said. “So out of 40 minutes, we played six. It’s hopeful that [Wednesday] we’ll be much better, much more energetic and much more consistent across the board.”
While there were bright spots in Sunday’s scrimmage—most notably 29 points from sophomore guard Alexis Jones and 14 rebounds from true freshman Oderah Chidom—Duke expects to play at a consistently higher level.
The bar is set high for this team that was ranked No. 2 in the nation in the preseason USA Today Coaches Poll.
Glenville State returns its top four scorers from last year’s squad that set a Division II record with 433 three-pointers, an average of 14.0 per game. The Lady Pioneers also led Division II by scoring 95.4 points per game a year ago, so they will present a significant challenge for Duke on the defensive end of the floor.
“We need to play great defense,” McCallie said. “Great transition defense and spotting up their shooters, great on-ball defense in terms of 1-on-1 stops. We need to improve on our help-side defense, and what I call our ‘overall team defense’—talking to each other on the floor, being in the right place and getting stops.”
Health is still a key concern for the Blue Devils. Two-time All-American Chelsea Gray is returning from a dislocated knee she suffered last February and is still not entirely healthy. Gray sat out the final quarter of Sunday’s Blue/White scrimmage, and McCallie is not looking to push her too hard too quickly.
“Chelsea’s in that 70 percent range,” McCallie said. “She did not go very hard in the minutes that she played [Sunday]. I have to see how Chelsea plays on Wednesday, how effective she is and what her energy is like.”
In Gray’s absence last year, Jones stepped in and ran the offense, earning the ACC Tournament MVP Award. Now with the two of them on the court at the same time, the possibilities are endless. The combination of Gray’s experience and Jones’ quickness could prove to be fatal for many Duke opponents this year.
“Chelsea and Alexis have a great opportunity to be two of the best guards in the country,” McCallie said. “But that opportunity rests with their ability to play off each other, not their ability to one-up each other. If they play off each other and really appreciate each other’s skill sets, then you’re talking about a fantastic combo.”
Another injured Blue Devil to keep an eye on is redshirt freshman Amber Henson. She is recovering from knee surgery, and has undergone six surgeries since coming to Duke as the No. 1 overall recruit in the Class of 2012. Henson is behind Gray in terms of being game-ready and played only sparingly in the Blue/White scrimmage, but can certainly be a force if healthy.
Gray and Henson will both see game action tomorrow in the hopes of having them ready for the team's season-opener against California, but that goal is much more realistic for Gray than Henson. With those two playing limited minutes, there is plenty of opportunity for other members of the rotation, including Chidom and fellow freshman Kendall-McCravey Cooper, to make an impact against Glenville State.
Wednesday's game may not count toward the final standings, but McCallie said a stronger performance could go a long way toward the Blue Devils proving that they are deserving of the preseason praise in the national polls.
“What I’m looking forward to is getting a whole lot better, being a whole lot more aggressive and playing more of our style of play,” McCallie said.