No. 3 Duke cruised to a 111-67 victory against ACC newcomer Pittsburgh Sunday, with six Blue Devils scoring in double figures.
"Duke is very, very talented," Pittsburgh head coach Kathy McConnell-Miller said. "It's pick your poison. If you try to take away their inside presence, they kill you from the outside. They're just so well-balanced and have so many weapons. It was a tough matchup for us across the board. We were oversized and outmatched."
The trio of Elizabeth Williams, Haley Peters and Tricia Liston combined for a total of 59 points on the afternoon. In the process, Liston became Duke's all-time leader in 3-pointers made. Duke (20-1, 7-0 in the ACC) largely had its way on the offensive end in the paint. Four of the six double-figure scorers were post players and 50 of Duke's points came in the paint.
After a pair of close contests, including an overtime victory against Florida State earlier in the week, the Blue Devils' athleticism was simply too much for the Panthers (9-11, 1-5) on both ends of the floor. Ball control became a key factor in widening the gap between the teams with the Blue Devils giving up the ball merely three times in the second half after nine first-half turnovers.
“We’re getting into what we’re doing,” Duke head coach Joanne P. McCallie said. “We were a lot closer to playing a full 40 minutes today.... I think the thing that you celebrate is not the score but the contributions. The fact that everybody was so ready to get out there and do something positive.... Today we felt like the deepest team in America.”Duke managed 55 points in the opening frame on 65.5 percent shooting from the floor, and entered the break up 26 points. The lead only grew from there, extending the rout into the second half. With a comfortable margin and no Chelsea Gray—who remains out for the season with a knee injury—players such as Amber Henson, who hit three triples in the contest and scored a career-high 13 points, saw extended minutes on the floor.
"This is the best I've ever felt playing," Henson said. "With Chelsea going out, there is a need for people to step up in those spots. I think me having a game like this is important for my confidence, but also for my coaches to see that I can do it."
Liston has continued to be the go-to option for Duke during key moments throughout the season. Without Gray on the floor, Liston's role as chief communicator becomes all the more vital.
"I just need to keep doing what I'm doing trying to be a vocal leader and leading by example," Liston said. "I'm willing to do whatever to it takes to win and get us as far as we can go this season."
The wide margin of victory belied the lack of intensity at times for the Blue Devils on the defensive end. Although Duke held Pittsburgh to 21.6 percent shooting in the first half, the Panthers grabbed eight steals and 12 offensive rebounds in the frame, managing to snag nearly as many boards as the Blue Devils had overall.
Turnovers kept the lead within 10 points for the first eight minutes, but Duke soon widened the lead thanks to transition baskets and full-court pressure defense.
"At times I think we had the ball in our hands, and they scrapped for the ball a little bit," McCallie said. "We need to be scrappier."