With the women's basketball team's top three scorers combining for just seven points in the first half, it seemed like the second-ranked Blue Devils might be in trouble in their biggest test of the season so far, a top-ten showdown with No. 6 Maryland.
But Duke's depth, which has been revered this season, showed what the team is capable of doing. Lindsey Harding and Chante Black combined to shoot 11-for-11 in the period, giving the Blue Devils (14-0, 3-0 in the ACC) a 17-point halftime edge over Maryland (14-2, 1-1).
Duke never looked back, beating the Terps, 86-68, to remain undefeated and clinch its 13th straight win over its ACC rival. Three Blue Devils scored in double digits, including career highs for both Black and Harding, who tallied 19 points each.
"I'm proud of the way we competed," head coach Gail Goestenkors said. "We mirror one another in so many ways. We've both got a very strong post game, we've got perimeter players that can shoot the three and penetrate, so we knew it was going to be a battle, and it was one we were looking forward to."
After Alison Bales picked up her second foul less than two minutes into the contest, Black came off the bench and immediately made her presence known.
Using a combination of power moves on the low block and two putbacks off offensive rebounds, the sophomore scored 13 points over the game's first 11 minutes.
"She has been playing really well and practicing very well," Goestenkors said of Black. "It's nice to see her put another complete game together. She gave us the lift that we really needed. We could have been in a lot of trouble. Really all of our post got into foul trouble in that first half, and I thought she gave us a huge spark."
Nonetheless, the Blue Devils led Maryland by just two with 8:30 remaining in the half. But Harding fought her way down the lane to finish a left-handed layup, igniting a 23-6 run that gave Duke a comfortable halftime margin.
"It's hard to stop a team that has so many weapons," said Monique Currie, who had just five points in the first half but finished with 18, moving her into fourth place on Duke's all-time scoring list.
Although both teams finished the game shooting at least 50 percent, the Blue Devils' pressure defense and trapping gave Maryland problems, particularly in the first half when the Terps committed 14 of their 24 turnovers.
Duke converted those chances at the other end, finishing with 28 points off turnovers. The Blue Devils held Maryland to just 11 points.
"We played tremendous defense, and they still shot 50 percent," Goestenkors said. "They're an excellent shooting team and scoring team, as we are as well, but I thought the turnovers were huge for us. I thought we got our hands on a lot of passes, and I think that was the difference for us. We needed those extra possessions."
Despite the Blue Devils' 14-0 start-their second best in school history-they had only faced one ranked team prior to Sunday's showdown. They had been easily defeating their opponents by an average of nearly 45 points per contest.
But Sunday's convincing victory over a top-ten team was a strong indication of Duke potential this season.
"I think this could be our best team ever," Goestenkors said. "We've always had talent, but now we have depth as well. Depth is really making a difference for us."
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