DURHAM, N.C. – The Duke Blue Devils outdistanced themselves from the Boston College Eagles in a 78-57 win at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Sunday.
The Blue Devils (16-1, 3-0) had started Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) play on the road, topping both the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (64-47) and Syracuse Orange (86-53), before returning to host the Eagles in their conference home-opener.
Richa Jackson led Duke’s offense with a season-high 17 points, shooting 8-of-13 from the field, while Haley Peters (15 points, 5 rebounds), Chelsea Gray (11 points, 2 rebounds), Alexis Jones (10 points, 3 rebounds), and Elizabeth Williams (9 points, 11 rebounds) supported the rest of the offense.
“The team played hard,” Duke head coach Joanne P. McCallie said.
“We had some really good contributions from a lot of people. I think we grew as a team.”
Duke took control early as Williams won the tip to Gray who gained the half along the right side before getting the ball back inside to Williams who scored the first points of the game on a layup just 11 seconds into it.
Liston followed that up just 36 seconds later to give the Blue Devils a quick 5-0 lead before Boston College’s Kristen Doherty (8 points, 11 rebounds) drove the lane to score the Eagles’ first points.
Boston College (10-7, 1-2) continued to aggressively take shots and earn rebounds while going on a 6-0 run as the Eagles’ other top scorers, Kat Cooper (21 points, 3 assists) and Katie Zenevitch (10 points, 5 rebounds), helped establish their first and only lead of the game at the 17:16 mark.
After the first media timeout, Duke turned up its defensive pressure and stole the ball on three different occasions to start adding more points on the board.
“I think it was just important for us to get stops, and consecutive stops, and a part of that was rebounding,” Williams said.
“I just tried to really stay on the boards, and even if I didn’t get the rebounds, just to box out because the weak-side board is really important, especially when a team is shooting a lot of three-point shots.”
Gray helped to put together some of Duke’s impressive transition scores at that point in the game when she dished off one of her patented no-look passes to Liston as she drove along the baseline to then complete the play with a pass to an open Jackson who scored to put Duke up 13-6 with 14:07 to play.
After three-plus minutes of scoreless play from both teams, Williams reached up for a lob pass from Gray and extended the Duke lead to 15-6.
From there, Gray continued to direct the Blue Devils offense and put together a 9-4 run that pushed the lead to 14 points, 24-10, just seven minutes later.
As a result of four starters falling into foul trouble, Duke’s lineup showed a look that had never been seen this season with Jackson controlling the point with Chloe Wells, while Oderah Chidom, Kendall McCravey-Cooper and Ka’liah Johnson worked in the paint and off the glass.
“Just think about what we had to do,” McCallie said.
“We were playing without Lex (Alexis Jones), without Haley (Peters), and without Tricia (Liston). So when have I done that in a game this year? So we had to cope. We had to cope with that and make changes and take advantage of that.” I thought Richa did a great jog on that, took advantage of it, and came in and did her work. That’s just what you have to do.”
The Blue Devils tried to distance themselves farther from the Eagles and the coping mechanism they used in doing so turned out to be Jackson, who dropped shots amidst a number of missed attempts at both ends of the court.
Jackson’s effective work inside and outside along with Jones’ scoring touch allowed Duke to keep its lead in double digits for the remainder of the half, and an exclamation mark three-pointer from Wells gave Duke a comfortable 43-29 lead at halftime.
“I don’t think I consider Richa a bench player, but she’s a starter on the bench,” McCallie said.
“It was great to see her come into the game and make the difference that she made which was huge – absolutely huge.”
To open the second half, both teams continued to battle for loose balls and rebounds as they combined for only six points during the first four minutes of play, with Duke leading 46-32 by the first media timeout.
Shooting performances for the next six minutes were highlighted by numerous missed attempts and battles for rebounds.
The Eagles finished 9-of-34 from beyond the arc throughout the game, and their lack of finish came about as the result of the Blue Devils’ ability to shut off their access to the paint.
“We’re a great three-point shooting team,” Boston College coach Erik Johnson said.
“We’ve got some of the best three-point shooters in the country, we’re one of the top three-point shooting teams, and we’ve got some of the top three-point shooting individuals in the ACC. But when you force us to live and die with the three-point shot, obviously the strength of us is that we get to the rim, we get back-door cuts, we get some slips and rolls – we didn’t get enough layups. They really limited us on the interior and forced us to shoot perimeter shots.”
With just under six minutes to play, both teams showed better signs of shooting consistency as the Eagles put together a 9-4 run, but their efforts were matched by the Blue Devils who kept their lead hovering around 20 points with different scoring runs, including a 7-0 stretch to end the game.
“I was very pleased with our intensity,” McCallie said.
“We had a lot of intensity and energy, and that’s good. Not everything went perfectly, but I thought we were pretty steady…In conference play, where you’re so familiar with everybody, you know them, and you just have to remain really aggressive – attacking but steady across the board. And I thought our team did it.”