There is no place like home. Especially in the postseason.
Second-seeded Duke took advantage of playing on its home floor, routing 15th seed Winthrop 87-45 Saturday afternoon at Cameron Indoor Stadium behind an impressive defensive performance that limited the Eagle offense to just 15-of-55 shooting.
Duke will advance to play seventh-seeded DePaul—which defeated 10th seed Oklahoma 104-100 Saturday afternoon—in the second round Monday night at 6:30 p.m.
“We knew we had to win all the hustle plays,” senior guard Tricia Liston said. “We had to stay with the little things, the intangibles. Staying on the rebounding. That was the focus that we had. Like this was the only game that we had.”
Liston’s team got off to a hot start, jumping out to an 8-3 lead in the first five minutes of the contest in part thanks to two back-to-back offensive rebounds by post-players Haley Peters and Elizabeth Williams that translated into four second-chance points. The Blue Devils outrebounded Winthrop 25-12 in the first half and 49-23 on the afternoon.
Liston extended the run, scoring the team’s next eight points, including two 3-pointers. Liston finished with 20 points and six rebounds, draining four shots from beyond the arc.
This hot offensive start ignited the crowd at a mostly blue and white Cameron Indoor Stadium, which only built the momentum behind the Blue Devils.
Duke’s suffocating defense stifled any Eagle upset hopes, as the Blue Devils held Winthrop to just six field goals in the first half. The length of Duke’s guards and forwards clearly bothered the Eagles’ smaller backcourt, which found itself swarmed by the Blue Devil zone. Winthrop committed 17 turnovers in the contest.
When 6-foot-3 center Schaquilla Nunn picked up her second foul, Winthrop lost an important presence in the paint that allowed Duke to continue to get easy shots near the rim. This set the stage for a huge run at the end of the half that extended the lead.
“That was one of my concerns, Schaquilla being in early foul trouble,” Winthrop head coach Kevin Cook said. “They have not had 6-foot, 4-inch, 6-foot-3 players to play against. It impacted us greatly on the defensive end. She is a presence in there.”
Cook led the Eagles to their first-ever NCAA appearance this season.
Three-time Big South Player of the Year, senior Dequesha McClanahan lead the Eagles with 22 points in her final collegiate game, including a 60-percent shooting clip from beyond the arc. Unfortunately for McClanahan and Winthrop, the team had trouble finding other outlets for offensive production in the game, as the rest of the team combined for just 23 points.
Although Winthrop cut the Blue Devil lead to just 11 points with less than 10 minutes to play in the first half, Duke embarked on another run, outscoring the Eagles 20-5 during the final eight minutes of the half to walk into the locker room with a 43-17 lead.
The second half featured more Duke dominance on the defensive end of the floor and in the paint, where the Blue Devils scored 42 of its points compared to just six for Winthrop. Williams and Peters combined for 21 points and 14 rebounds, and freshman Oderah Chidom continued to add quality minutes of the bench, scoring a career-high 17 points on 5-of-6 shooting.
But it was the 12 of Duke’s 21 total assists that the team’s post players combined for that had head coach Joanne P. McCallie excited. Peters led the team, tying a career high with six assists in the game.
“The best statistic that we have is 21 assists,” McCallie said. “That has to be some kind of world record. I was proud of the team for just passing the basketball.”
Even forward Kendall McCravey-Cooper, who saw limited minutes during the regular season, had arguably one of her best games of the season, scoring 14 points and grabbing 10 boards for her first double-double of her Duke career.
“She let the game come to her,” McCallie said. “She is so intense and is a terrific fighter. But sometimes that intensity can take her to a place where she cannot let the game come to her. So what we saw today was her fabulous intensity, but a little bit of patience and poise in some of her decisions.”
After a day of rest tomorrow, the schedule only gets tougher for the Blue Devils, who will face a power-conference team in DePaul Monday. McCallie did not seemed worried, citing the team’s number one strength of schedule as a testament to the strength of her team.
Even if the opponent is different, the goals have remained the same.
“Their challenges are different,” McCalli said. “But the key is the same. If you are that same team passing the ball and playing smart, it is an exciting time for us. We have to keep working, stay focused and build on every game.”