Duke women's basketball to face final exhibition test
Izzi Clark / The Chronicle
Duke, consistently ranked in the top three in every national preseason poll, beat Glenville State 122-77 on Wednesday night in its first exhibition game, jumping out to a 13-0 lead to start the game and building a 32 point advantage midway through the first half. The Blue Devils will attempt to get off to a similar fast start Sunday at 2 pm against the Cobras.
Against Glenville State, the Blue Devils also took the highest scoring team in Division II from last season out of its rhythm by forcing 30 turnovers. However, the 22 turnovers Duke committed themselves and the 25 offensive rebounds and 10 second half 3-pointers they surrendered still give the team something to strive to improve before the regular season opener.
"The lessons were profound," head coach Joanne P. McCallie said. "We need to grow as a team. We need to be more gritty and a little more blue collar in our attempt to play great defense and rebound and then enjoy the offense from there. Defensive leadership is a key for this team right now."
Duke featured a balanced attack against the Lady Pioneers, with all five starters scoring in double figures led by two-time All-Americans senior guard Chelsea Gray and junior forward Elizabeth Williams. Gray, continuing her comeback from a dislocated knee, had 12 points, 14 assists and four steals in 22 minutes and Williams had 19 points, 15 rebounds, six blocks and five assists.
Senior guard Richa Jackson also performed well against Glenville State, scoring 15 points in 16 minutes of action and going 7-of-8 from the field off the bench. Jackson tore her ACL late in her sophomore season and was still dealing with the effects of the injury when she returned to the court midway through last season, so her high level of activity against the Lady Panthers was a very encouraging sign for the Blue Devils.
"I think Richa has been working really hard," McCallie said. "I feel great going to Richa as a sixth player for this team. The sixth player role might be more valuable than the starter role given her knowledge and experience. She's really worked her way into that spot. She's ready to do some very good things."
Coker College is a small, liberal arts school in Hartsville, South Carolina. The Cobras are switching from the Carolinas Conference to the South Atlantic Conference this season. They went 18-11 a season ago, with a 14-8 record in conference play, before losing in the quarterfinals of the conference tournament to end the season.
Coker's roster features six players who contributed a season ago, four freshmen and five transfers from other small Division II schools. Senior forward Jessica Cohen is returning after a knee injury kept her out all of last season--she averaged 15.2 points per game as a sophomore.
After Sunday's contest, the Blue Devils will have a few days to prepare for their trip across the country to take on California as the first of many nonconference tests. Four of Duke's players, including Gray and senior guard Chloe Wells, will be returning to their home state in what is the team's first chance to show that they are ready to take the next step and compete for a National Championship after four straight Elite Eights. However, they will be looking to conclude the exhibition season on a positive note first.
"We've already started," McCallie said. "In my brain, that wasn't a victory [against Glenville State]. We're well into it. Things will be much better [when the regular season starts] because we'll have drilled and corrected, but I think we're on the go right now."