DURHAM, N.C. – The 13th-ranked Duke Blue Devils outpaced the Oklahoma Sooners and posted a decisive 92-72 win at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Wednesday.
Elizabeth Williams led the Blue Devils with a career-high double-double finish, scoring 26 points and picking up 20 rebounds, marking the third time in school history that the 20-20 plateau was reached in a game.
Previous school marks had been set by Barb Krause (21-23) in 1979 and by Chris Moreland (29-20) in 1988, before Williams posted hers against the Sooners.
“Coach P (McCallie) kept harping on Jahlil’s (Okafor) game the other day and saying I was capable and just reminded me to stay aggressive,” Williams said when speaking of achieving the feat.
Rebecca Greenwell (11 points, 10 rebounds) also finished with a double-double, while Azura Stevens (17 points, 8 rebounds, 2 blocks), Sierra Calhoun (14 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists), and Lynee Belton (10 points, 4 rebounds) also posted double-digit point totals.
“Just really proud of our fight and a great second-half push by the team,” Duke head coach Joanne P. McCallie said.
“I think we did some nice things defensively and I thought we were very aggressive offensively. Loved the O boards, the overall rebounding. Obviously, Elizabeth’s performance – I’m not surprised – but the aggression she showed, I could tell the team could really feed off of that. It was a neat thing.”
Freshman guard Gabbi Ortiz (14 points, 5 rebounds, 8 assists) and Derica Wyatt (14 points, 4 rebounds) led the Sooners offense that included four double-digit scorers.
Having lost three of their last five, Oklahoma needed to make a statement against a ranked team, but knew it was facing a big challenge in playing the Blue Devils on their home court.
“We have a very, very young team and this is probably the worst matchup we could hope for in terms of two completely different teams – their size and athleticism and skill,” Oklahoma head coach Sherri Coale said.
“I thought for a while we hung right in there, but Elizabeth Williams was fantastic. She just completely changed the game. The job she did on the glass was incredible, so give her credit and give Duke credit.”
Both teams came out running and gunning, posting 12 quick points between them during the first two minutes of play.
It was a pace of play that Coale intended by design even though the two teams were mismatched.
“We felt like we had to speed them up,” Coales said.
“You can’t go let them set up in the half court with all that size on the interior.”
Five straight points from Oklahoma put Duke in chase mode, but the pace didn’t affect the Blue Devils.
They countered with two jumpers from Greenwell and Stevens and cut into the Sooners advantage, trailing 11-10 by the first media timeout.
Five minutes later, the Blue Devils had regained the lead 24-18, putting together a 12-0 run to do so.
Duke continued to outscore the Sooners, dominating in the paint and adding points from the free throw line.
The Blue Devils established a 52-percent shooting rate during the opening half, and finished the game just a few points lower at 49 percent overall, converting 32-of-66 shot attempts throughout.
“We definitely expected that,” McCallie said.
“I thought we did a great job controlling it more in the second half, to go when we wanted to go and make them defend us a little bit, as well. I thought we did a good job, particularly in the second half, of controlling the tempo and dictating the tempo.”
Defensively, Duke employed a zone and 1-1-3 defense at times that had the Sooners searching in how to break it down in the post.
Duke led 42-36 at halftime.
The second half started the same as the first – fast and furious.
Both teams raced to the basket and put up 15 points combined within the first two minutes of play with Duke leading 51-40.
Oklahoma got hot beyond the arc with back-to-back three’s from Nicole Kornet (5 points, 3 rebounds) and Sharane Campbell-Olds (10 points, 3 rebound), but Duke kept pace up with Stevens, Williams, and Greenwell posting multiple baskets.
With Duke leading 61-45 and with 14 minutes to play, Coale was assessed a technical for emphatically questioning an apparent missed traveling call on the Blue Devils.
The infraction allowed Calhoun to add two more points to the Blue Devils’ 63-45 lead, its largest of the game at the time.
Even while back-to-back steals from Ka’lia Johnson (6 points, 3 assists) and Calhoun ended up with the ball dropping through the basket, Oklahoma didn’t waiver and kept up its three-point shooting success – finishing at 34 percent for the game – scoring on 13-of-34 attempts beyond the arc.
With nine minutes to play, Williams came up with the block of the night on Ortiz as the undersized guard could not launch the ball high enough over the Duke star of the game.
Williams eventually got the ball back and powered it in on a solo layup effort, and quickly followed that up with a jumper to push the Duke lead to 73-53 with 7:39 to play.
She concluded her time in the game when she pulled down her 20th rebound with 2:09 to play.
Duke’s bench players – Belton, Mercedes Riggs, Oderah Chidom, Erin Mathias and Jenna Frush – all helped to stabilize the defense to finish the game out, even while the Sooners ended it on a 6-0 run.
Coming off a demoralizing final-second 51-50 loss at home to top-ranked South Carolina 10 days earlier, the Blue Devils made quite a statement in getting back on the court against the Sooners, particularly after taking exams recently.
“For us, obviously we’re very motivated by some things that happened in the past,” McCallie said.
“It kind of rubs you the wrong way a little bit, but I think the team did a great job in trying to bottle that and hang on to that a little bit because we did have finals and had bigger things to do with their academic piece. I think you always have to learn from those situations. And we got better in those instances as well, but at the same time it’s a motivator when your outcome doesn’t match your growth. That’s no fun. You want your growth and outcome to match – like tonight for example.”
Notes: With 15 seconds remaining and everyone in the building feeling good about many things that took place in the game, Belton fell in severe pain and was clutching her left knee as play moved away from the Oklahoma basket. A somber hush fell over the 4,006 in attendance as she was helped off the court. According to the team’s SID, Belton would undergo an MRI on Thursday to get a more definitive assessment of the severity of the injury.