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Inside play makes difference against Wake

WINSTON-SALEM — With the game tied at 30, Mistie Williams spun from the left block into the lane and made a short layup. The Blue Devils scored on each of their next six possessions during a 16-0 run that put the game out of reach for Wake Forest.

Top-ranked Duke (18-1, 4-0 in the ACC) went on to win a shootout, 99-86, over the Demon Deacons (12-5, 1-3) at the Joel Coliseum.

Williams scored six of her season-high and team-high 22 points during that stretch when Duke had its way in the paint, particularly on second-chance opportunities.

“The biggest thing for them was us being able to defend their first shot, but not their second or third,” Wake Forest head coach Mike Petersen said of the decisive run. “We had trouble rebounding due to their height. Rebounding is usually a team function, but unfortunately we lost a lot of the individual battles, which led to their rebounds.”

Throughout the night, Duke’s goal was to work the ball inside to centers Williams and Alison Bales, who possessed significant height advantages over their Wake Forest counterparts. Bales added a career-high 21 points as the duo worked effectively together with a strong high-low post game.

“We work on that in practice all the time,” Williams said. “With the plays that we have, it gives us the opportunity to get each other the ball instead of relying on the guards to get it into us.”

Duke went into the half with a 52-35 lead, and it looked like Duke might run away with its 16th straight victory. The Demon Deacons were persistent in the second half, shooting 59.4 percent, including 5-of-12 from three-point range.

Wake Forest’s backcourt of junior guard Cotelia Bond-Young and red-shirt sophomore Porsche’ Jones anchored the attempted comeback. The pair exposed Duke’s poor transition defense, and Bond-Young finished the game with 24 points and 11 assists.

“Wake Forest gave a supreme effort and their shooting was phenomenal,” head coach Gail Goestenkors said. “They have five guards out there that can all shoot the three, but we did have a size advantage on them. Wake Forest is a tough team. They can score points. They caused some matchup problems for us tonight.”

Every time the Demon Deacons seemed to get close in the second half, the Blue Devils responded with a big basket of their own. Duke’s smallest lead in the final 20 minutes was seven—an 80-73 margin. Monique Currie responded with back-to-back baskets and then assisted Jessica Foley, who nailed a three.

After that stretch, the Blue Devils returned to inside play, which had brought them success to that point. Williams drew a foul, missed the free throws, but then came back down the court and hit a running layup from the right side. Bales followed it with another easy layup off of an inbounds play.

“They are really, really tall. They do a great job inside, setting up, playing and finding one another,” Petersen said. “In the second half, we made them play over the top of us more, but we definitely knew their height would be an issue. We lost control of the tempo, which is something we need to force in order to win the game.”

Goestenkors was satisfied with the victory, noting the improvements that Wake Forest has made under its first-year head coach. She said she expects ACC play to be competitive and very difficult this season.

“We’ve come to a point when we welcome the challenge of getting a team’s best effort,” Goestenkors said. “In the long run that will pay off. We want to be prepared for anything come NCAA Tournament time.”

NOTES:

The 59.1 percent shooting was a season-high for the Blue Devils and was the sixth time in the last seven games that Duke has shot at least 50 percent.... The Blue Devils surrendered a season-high 86 points and allowed a season-worst 47 percent shooting.... After turning the ball more than nine times in the first 20 minutes of action, the Blue Devils turned it over just twice the rest of the game.... Duke’s 18-1 start is the third best in school history. Only the Blue Devils 20-0 start in 2002-2003 and 21-1 start in 2000-2001 were better.... Freshman Chante Black scored four points in her first trip back to her hometown of Winston-Salem.

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