Duke dethrones Monarchs

Duke's Alison Bales knocked the game's opening tip to Abby Waner, who passed to Carrem Gay for an uncontested layup just four seconds into the game.

The No. 5 Blue Devils' transition offense, demonstrated by the first play of the game, set the tone for an easy 89-40 victory over Old Dominion (2-3) Wednesday night in Cameron Indoor Stadium.

But even 24 fast-break points were not satisfactory for head coach Gail Goestenkors, whose Duke squad (6-0) plays three ranked opponents-No. 18 Rutgers, No. 12 Vanderbilt and No. 22 Texas-in its next three games.

"The first half, we did OK-we could have done much better," Goestenkors said. "About half-way through the first half, I was upset with the team because I thought we really weren't pushing the ball and attacking the basket the way we needed to."

Duke's 12 transition points fueled a 32-point first-half lead for the Blue Devils, who also took advantage of the Monarchs' 17 turnovers in the opening period. In the first eight minutes, Waner contributed heavily to the Blue Devils' transition game, recording two steals and four assists.

Just more than three minutes into the game, Duke led 15-1, and the outcome of the game was never in question.

Duke iced the victory with its defensive intensity throughout the game and a strong half-court offensive effort in the second half. The Blue Devils held the Monarchs to 25 percent shooting while shooting at a 59 percent clip themselves.

"Overall, I was pleased with our defensive effort," Goestenkors said. "I thought-specifically in the second half-we did a really nice job offensively moving the ball and sharing the ball. And it showed in the percentage that we shot in the second half."

Duke's first-half domination-it led 43-11 at the break-allowed Goestenkors to clear the bench. The reserve players responded accordingly, totaling 38 points, highlighted by redshirt-freshman Keturah Jackson's career-high 11 points.

Waner led the team with 16 points, her sixth straight game scoring in double figures. She was followed by Gay with 13 points-including 11 in the first half-and freshman Joy Cheek, who added 12.

Even though the Blue Devils posted 89 points, Goestenkors was most pleased with her team's defensive play. Duke collected 18 steals and seven blocks, led by Bales' four rejections.

"Duke basketball is really known for its team defense," Bales said. "When our defense is clicking, we are pretty unstoppable."

Wednesday night's game is the last of a relatively light six-game, season-opening stretch in which Duke outscored its opponents by an average of 40.3 points. In addition, the Blue Devils strayed from Cameron just once, beating Michigan 92-47 Nov. 25 in Ann Arbor, Mich.

In these blowouts, Duke has been able to substitute liberally and play a large number of players. Against Old Dominion, no player was on the court for more than 25 minutes-leading scorers Waner and Gay played just 20 and 17 minutes, respectively.

There are some drawbacks to large-scale victories against lesser-regarded foes, though. It is especially hard to maintain strong play when leading by large margins the entire game, Goestenkors said.

"I think we lose our focus," Goestenkors said. "That's human nature, but the difference between a good team and a great team is one that plays at their own level regardless of the score-and we're still learning to do that."

As they enter the grueling three-game stretch against ranked teams starting Monday night in Piscataway, N.J., the Blue Devils will likely be seriously tested for the first time all year. Besides their focus, they have two areas in which Goestenkors said they must improve-rebounding and outside shooting.

But if the Blue Devils can maintain their defensive prowess while effectively mixing a transition offense and production in the half-court, they will finally be able to prove their mettle against top-level competition.


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