No. 2 Duke crushes USC Upstate in home opener

Peter Koutroumpis, Triangle Sports Network

Peter Koutroumpis, Triangle Sports Network

DURHAM, N.C. – The second-ranked Duke Blue Devils women’s basketball team doesn’t lose many games at home, and particularly not against unranked opponents.

The Blue Devils extended that win streak to 123 games, as they trounced the USC Upstate Spartans 123-40 during their home opener in front of a crowd of 4,013 at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Thursday.

“Happy the team played hard throughout and played focused,” Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie said.

“We were trying to work on things throughout the game and I felt the team kept a very good focus with a lot of energy off the bench.”

Duke’s final scoring total was the second highest in school history as six different players contributed double-digit point totals to the final tally.

Forward Haley Peters finished with a double-double – scoring 17 points and pulling down a career-high 20 rebounds to help lead the Blue Devils at both ends of the court.

“I was just aggressive,” Peters said.

“I wasn’t happy with myself after Cal at all. I just wanted to be aggressive with the ball.”

Tricia Liston (20 points, 9 rebounds, 6 assists) led all scorers while fellow guards Chelsea Gray (14 points, 8 assists, 6 steals, 5 rebounds), Alexis Jones (14 points, 4 assists, 6 steals, 3 rebounds) and Chloe Wells (10 points, 4 assists) helped to generate numerous Upstate turnovers and transition point-scoring opportunities.

Center Elizabeth Williams (17 points, 5 rebounds, 3 blocks) and freshman forward Oderah Chidom (9 points, 5 rebounds) made significant contributions to Duke’s 64-point production in the paint throughout the game.

In outscoring the Spartans 60-18 and 63-22 during each half respectively, the Blue Devils were simply at a different level as Upstate coach Tammy George described it.

“I thought our kids played hard,” George said.

“It was tough. In every position they’re bigger, faster, stronger, but I felt like our kids played hard.”

Duke’s defensive play made it difficult for the Spartans to move the ball whether it was with a full-court press or on man-defense.

“We do a lot of full-court pressure,” McCallie continued.

“Yes, we have to get some things better with our presses, but what we tried to work on today was a lot of our man stuff and trying to clean up some things. When you play multiple defenses you have to have some principles and one of them is aggression, so challenging players to make one-on-one stops and really, really focus on that was something we were looking forward to doing tonight and learn from that. So it was good. There were some good things out there and I definitely felt that we got better as a team.”

Even after winning their season-opener at ninth-ranked Cal (70-58) on Sunday, Liston and her teammates wanted to continue to improve upon all areas of their game against their next opponent.

“I think there was a lot we saw on film that we wanted to do better, mainly our defense and our rebounding,” Liston said.

“So I think coming off that game, we weren’t content with that and wanted to do better, so I think our motivation for today and each game is getting better and better. I don’t think were content or settled with beating a good team like Cal. I think there is something more to be said about our team and what we want to do this year.”

Thus, beating the Spartans by 83 points, their third-highest margin of victory in school history, sent a clear message that this Blue Devils team can and will make the adjustments necessary to win, regardless by how much and who the opponent is.