Thanks to another strong performance from sophomore Azurá Stevens, the Blue Devils had no problem stealing a victory from the Vandals.
No. 15 Duke took down Idaho 74-68 Thursday afternoon during its first of three contests in Cancún, Mexico, as part of the Cancún Challenge. Stevens followed up her career-high 32-point, 14-rebound performance against Army last Sunday by posting 22 points and 12 rebounds—her fourth consecutive double-double.
Several players had strong games offensively, but the Blue Devil defense played hungry during the Thanksgiving Day matchup. Duke crashed the boards all afternoon, outrebounding the Vandals 48-29 thanks to double-digit rebounding performances from Stevens and junior Kendall Cooper. The Blue Devils applied consistent defensive pressure, causing the Vandals to shoot just 33.3 percent from the field, significantly less than Duke’s 46.8 percent clip.
“Once I got back to just attacking the boards hard, everything seemed to click,” Stevens told GoDuke.com. “I think [the rebounding differential] just shows our capabilities. Kendall did really good at just attacking the boards and that’s what we’ve got to do every game”
The Blue Devils (4-1) trailed early against Army before Stevens took over, but started off strong against the Vandals (3-1) Thursday afternoon. An Angela Salvadores free-throw gave Duke a 10-9 lead with 3:40 remaining in the first quarter, and the Blue Devils did not relinquish that advantage for the remainder of the contest. Five different players scored during the opening period, allowing Duke to jump out to an 18-11 lead.
Redshirt sophomore Rebecca Greenwell headed the team’s early efforts by putting up eight points in the first quarter. The Owensboro, Ky., native responded well after a poor shooting performance against Army, notching a pair of 3-pointers in the opening minutes after going just 1-of-8 from downtown against the Black Knights. By the final buzzer, Greenwell had recorded 17 points along with two rebounds and an assist in 33 minutes.
Stevens failed to score in the opening period but heated up shortly thereafter, scoring 12 of her 22 points during the second quarter, more than two-thirds of Duke's points in the period.
“Azurá is a fantastic player, and for her to be at the highest level, double-doubles are part of her world,” Duke head coach Joanne McCallie told GoDuke.com. “It’s part of what she can do out there. She played a lot of minutes, she can be very productive and I’m excited for her because she’s getting better and better and growing with experience.”
Stevens' high-scoring performances have helped pick up the slack for a pair of poor long-range shooting efforts for the Blue Devils on the perimeter. Duke shot 22.2 percent from beyond the arc against the Vandals and has made just 20 percent of its 3-point attempts in its last two games.
Salvadores—the No. 2 point guard in this year’s recruiting class—made her first career start Thursday after being eased back onto the court following a heavy summer of international competition. The floor general has taken some time to get in sync with the offense, but recorded 29 minutes against Idaho on her way to a balanced performance with six points, six rebounds, and six assists.
“[We’re trying to get] people who can create assists, can rebound, and can score and Angela’s been working hard. She had a good game against Army and she’s been coming along,” McCallie said. “Whether you’re coming off the bench or scoring, I think it’s really important to give everything you have, and she’s growing and learning.”
The Blue Devils also received a breakout performance from Crystal Primm, who had a career-high 13 points on an efficient 5-of-8 shooting. Primm has been a consistent force on defense, but struggled offensively as of late with just 12 combined points in her previous four contests. But against the Vandals, the freshman displayed her impressive speed and shooting ability.
“I think Crystal was fantastic both offensively and defensively. She gave us great energy off the bench,” McCallie said. “She can be consistent. In our first games she really has not been consistent, so it was great to see her play her game.”
Duke plays its second leg of the Cancún Challenge Friday at 1:30 p.m. against Iowa State.
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