Blue Devils run through Bulls

TAMPA - No Abby Waner, no problem for the Blue Devils.

Even without last season's leading scorer, No. 10 Duke (2-0) took care of South Florida (1-1) in the ESPNU Women's Basketball Invitational at The St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa, 89-52. Waner missed the game with a sprained ankle suffered in practice earlier in the week.

Several Blue Devils stepped up in Waner's absence, including center Chante Black. The redshirt junior had 16 points to lead all scorers and pulled down 11 rebounds to record her seventh career double-double. Forward Joy Cheek added a career-high 15 points.

"Whenever you have someone fall or get hurt, you always look for someone else, or the team to rise," Cheek said. "We all had to step up... and take it out on the court."

Freshman center Krystal Thomas was the team's third double-digit scorer. Her 10 points in 14 minutes of play contributed to the frontcourt's 50-24 advantage in the paint. Duke's determination to pound the ball inside allowed it to take 38 free throws and get South Florida in early foul trouble, limiting the opposition's aggressiveness on defense.

It was not just the team's post players who had success against the Bulls, as 11 active Blue Devils played and scored. Sophomores Keturah Jackson and Brittany Mitch started their first games for Duke and provided a spark from the opening tip.

"K.J. played with a lot of confidence," head coach Joanne P. McCallie said. "She had seven rebounds-I like to see that kind of thing out of a guard."

The team also moved the ball very effectively, finishing with 25 assists on 31 field goals, a stat that McCallie was especially pleased with. Duke's passing helped it shoot 46.3-percent from the field.

Defensively, Duke was equally impressive, limiting South Florida to 15 points on 18.5-percent shooting in the first half. The Blue Devils exploited their size advantage with 14 blocks on the night-six by Krystal Thomas and four by fellow freshman Jasmine Thomas.

It was the defensive effort that particularly drew praise from McCallie. Although Duke won by a convincing 37 points, the coach was less focused on the final score.

"I don't really think about the scoreboard," McCallie said. "As long as we play defense and rebound, I'm not too concerned."

One aspect of the game that did draw McCallie's attention was its venue. The St. Pete Times Forum will be the site of the 2008 NCAA Tournament Final Four-a detail that was not lost on the McCallie's squad.

"I told our team to breathe really heavy-to suck up the air in the place so that it has something familiar to take home and want to come back to," McCallie said.

After losing in the Sweet Sixteen of last year's tournament, the Blue Devils would like to extend their season further this year. With a successful game in the arena already under its belt, Duke is looking to improve its play over the course of the season so that it can make a return trip in March.

"It's great to come out here and start in Tampa," Black said. "The weather's great, and we played pretty well. Hopefully we'll be finishing here as well."


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