DURHAM, N.C. – The AP preseason No. 7 Duke Blue Devils towered over and overpowered the Division II fourth-ranked Limestone Saints in a 100-33 exhibition win at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Thursday.
Redshirt freshman Rebecca Greenwell led the Blue Devils with a 24-point, six assist performance supported by double-double efforts from sophomore Oderah Chidom (19 points, 11 rebounds) and senior Elizabeth Williams (18 points, 11 rebounds, 3 blocks), as well as a team-high seven-assist output from senior guard Ka’lia Johnson (5 points, 5 rebounds).
“It’s a great feeling,” Greenwell said of playing in her first collegiate game after recovering from knee surgery last season.
“I’ve definitely waited for this moment for a long time, so I was just excited to get out there. I think the first half I was nervous a little bit and took some dumb shots, but once I got into the flow of things and we started executing, I started to take the right shots and make the right passes.”
Duke finished the game shooting 36-of-66 from the field, a 54-percent clip, including eight three-pointers (8-24) – of which Greenwell claimed six to herself.
“You just have to watch out for Becca, “ Duke head coach Joann P. McCallie said.
“She’s just always lurking somewhere. I think she really keeps the defense honest and has worked on her defense, too.”
The Blue Devils outrebounded the Saints by a margin of 57-20, a likely outcome considering the considerable height advantage they held over the visiting side.
“We just got better tonight,” McCallie said.
“Urgency on defense was much better. Obviously, there were things we were trying to accomplish. The team had set a goal and they reached that goal defensively, and that’s important. There’s no question it was a different level, playing against a different level, but the reality is we’ve gotta’ perform against that level and all levels in terms of your team goals, your urgency. I thought the team was very urgent.”
Limestone came into the game following an Elite Eight appearance in the NCAA Tournament last season and posting a 27-6 overall record.
Ayshia McNeil (10 points) and Jasmine Kearse (7 points) led the Saints who were challenged with penetrating over and through the oversized Duke lineup that they faced.
“I thought our kids competed and battled,” Limestone head coach Corey Fox said.
“Obviously we didn’t make a shot and obviously they had a great size advantage inside and they got, it felt like, every single rebound in the game. Our kids had a great experience and we thank Coach (McCallie) for having us play – what a great experience our kids will have for the rest of their lives.”
Even while possessing one of the tallest lineups of all currently-ranked Division I teams in the country, Duke is not pinning any of its players to any one position.
“Coach P says we have six point guards,” Greenwell said of playing the point.
“So we’re gonna’ just keep interchanging them. I think we’re all comfortable running it and do a good job at it.”
Greenwell, Chidom, as well as freshmen Azura Stevens (11 points, 7 rebounds, 5 steals) and Sierra Calhoun (11 points, 7 rebounds, 2 steals) saw time on the floor controlling the point as well as distributing or getting into the paint to score and rebound.
“It was dirty work,” McCallie said of Stevens’ all-around effort.
“Azura did the dirty work. She had six offensive rebounds, the five steals she had, and the game-winner. What I mean by that is I called timeout and told the team we were down by one. Then we ran a play and it was Azura who scored it and got an and-1 on that. When she came out I said, ‘you just got your first game-winner’. That was great to see.”
For Chidom, her offensive output was impressive considering her focus on being more of a defensive and rebounding stalwart last season.
“Because of the situation with our team, we have a lot of taller players, so it forced some people to move out,” Chidom said.
“Over the summer, I focused on being more comfortable outside on the wing. I attribute my success to that and all the hard work I’ve been doing with all my teammates.”
As much as Chidom worked from the outside to help move the ball and penetrate, she made notable soft touches in the paint to add points to the scoreboard – another area that she and her teammates worked on during the offseason.
“All the pickup we played, all the time that we spent together, it really showed today,” Chidom continued.
As much as the offense and defense were highlights for Duke in a dominating game during which they reached the century mark, it showed that it still had work to do in its trap system setup and execution.
No doubt the Blue Devils were effective in creating turnovers and scoring 17 points in transition and fast break situations, but the Saints were still able to move the ball up the floor through the maze of taller players in front of them – more than might have been expected.
“It was good,” McCallie said of the team’s full-court and mid-court traps.
“I think we need improvement there on closing traps and really using our bodies to position ourselves better. I think we’re a little bit young, you know, going for the reach, then there was a quick guard and we don’t close the trap, then we body and foul – that type of thing. So, I think that will come through time, but I like our length, I like how we use our length. But we will definitely better with one-on-one stops and be more savvy defensively. That’s just gonna’ come through time and playing against different kinds of teams.”
Duke will tip off against its next preseason opponent, Armstrong State, on Sunday and then continue preparations to begin the regular season on the road against Alabama on Nov. 16.