Duke found plenty of different ways to score points Thursday against Wingate, but its high-intensity play was perhaps more defined by the variety of ways in which the Bulldogs committed their astounding 41 turnovers: five-second calls, shot clock violations, steals off the dribble, blocked shots and intercepted passes.
This Blue Devil onslaught culminated in a resounding 99-31 victory at Cameron Indoor Stadium in Duke’s first and only exhibition game.
The Blue Devils controlled the game from the opening tip, setting the pace with up-tempo offense and stifling defense. Wingate was under duress in all phases of its offense: The team struggled to inbound the ball, struggled to advance the ball up the floor, struggled to find any semblance of rhythm. The Blue Devils attacked the Wingate ballhandlers and got in passing lanes at every opportunity, generating a remarkable 26 steals in the game. Duke’s quickness advantage was augmented by a considerable size advantage as well.
The Blue Devils blocked 13 shots—six of them by senior center Krystal Thomas—and had nearly as many rebounds on the offensive end as they did on defensive end, 23 and 24 respectively.
Duke’s scoring attack was led by floor general Jasmine Thomas, who paced the team with 17 points and added five assists and seven steals. Thomas’s backup, sophomore Chelsea Hopkins, also worked to ensure that the pace never slackened. Five other players scored in double figures, including sophomore sharpshooter Kathleen Scheer, who drained three 3-pointers, and freshman center Allison Vernerey, who had four blocks and six steals in addition to 16 points. Vernerey ran the floor very impressively for a 6-foot-5 post player and used her soft hands to create opportunites under the basket.
“She’s the fastest post I’ve ever seen, foul line to foul line,” head coach Joanne McCallie said of Vernerey. “I imagine she’s a lot of fun to play with, because she’s active and always moving.”
“It was all great for me,” Vernerey said. “I know I have to work a lot on a lot of things, but I really like the way we work, the way we play hard, so I think I can really fit.”
The team is working to implement several changes to its offensive scheme in an effort to increase the pace of play and involve more players in the gameplan.
“When you look at the balanced scoring attack that was exhibited today, that’s important,” McCallie said. But she added that she wants to see more balanced rebounding from her team, as senior Joy Cheek posted the lone double-digit rebound total in the game, even though the Blue Devils had a decided height advantage at every position.
McCallie was pleased with her team’s initial effort, but she said there were still “a million things to work on” before offering up a laundry list of areas in which she hopes to see her team improve.
There may be plenty of room left to get better, but Cheek was just happy to compete against a team wearing something other than a Duke uniform.
While the Blue Devils got by on superior athleticism in Thursday’s blowout win, they’ll need to continue their aggressive style of play to compete with the tougher opposition that is to come.
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