DURHAM, N.C. – All five starters scored in double-digits to power the 15th-ranked Duke Blue Devils past the eighth-ranked Louisville Cardinals by a 66-58 margin in front of a crowd of 5,790 at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Monday.
It was the first meeting between the two squads since the Cardinals (19-3, 7-2) joined the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) and first since 1998 when they last met.
Azura Stevens’ 17 points and nine rebounds and Oderah Chidom’s 14 points and six rebounds led all scorers for Duke (16-6, 7-2)
Rebecca Greenwell (13 points, 3 rebounds) along with Ka’lia Johnson (11 points, 2 rebounds) led Duke’s perimeter scoring with three baskets each from beyond the arc, while Elizabeth Williams (11 points, 9 rebounds) anchored an effective defensive stand with five blocks and two steals.
“I was proud of our team for how we battled,” Duke head coach Joanne P. McCallie said.
“It was a very defensive battle for most of that game. I love our balance. Everybody got involved and was aggressive.”
Chidom and Stevens set the pace early as the Blue Devils put together a dominating 11-2 run within the first four minutes of play.
Sara Hammond (17 points, 8 rebounds), Maryia Moore (14 points, 3 rebounds), and Jude Schimmel (11 points, 2 rebounds) led the Cardinals’ offense which struggled early.
Louisville went scoreless for a stretch of five minutes between its first two baskets, and contributed to a lowly 29-percent shooting performance during the opening half.
Duke’s aggressive play didn’t allow the Cardinals much space to work with as they tried to put shots up from the perimeter.
After taking advantage of some of Duke’s eventual 22 turnovers in the game, Louisville pulled to within two, trailing 11-9 after Schimmel scored an uncontested layup with nine minutes to play.
The Blue Devils struggled with their own seven-minute scoring drought until Greenwell scored her first points of the game on a reverse from under the basket.
Greenwell and Stevens kept the Duke offense and lead moving which Johnson added to when she dropped her second three of the half.
Duke led 21-16 with 2:36 to play.
A three from Moore kept the Duke defense honest, but Stevens continued to be the force for the Cardinals to reckon with.
Two more baskets from her extended the Blue Devils lead to 25-19 by halftime.
Another quick run to start the second half kept Duke in control while Louisville worked to improve its shooting performance.
Greenwell dropped her second three-pointer of the game and extended Duke’s lead to 12 points, 35-23, with under 17 minutes to play.
Louisville’s struggles from the field continued while the Blue Devils took advantage of working in the paint at the other end of the floor.
Duke outscored the Cardinals 32-22 in close while outrebounding them 43-35.
“We just were not very sharp offensively,” Louisville head coach Jeff Walz said.
“We did not attack the high post like we had worked on and hoped to do. They’re a very long basketball team – they do a very nice job.”
Williams went to the free throw line and pushed the margin to as many as 17 points with a layup to follow and forced the Cardinals to work harder to work the ball inside.
It didn’t work.
Louisville’s shooting improved slightly for the rest of the game, but couldn’t keep pace with Duke’s 47-percent conversion rate on the night.
Moore worked as has she could, scoring back-to-back three-pointers and finally finding the opportunity to cut the margin to single digits, and pull the Cardinals within nine points,
Howwever, Stevens laid another one up and in and Duke led 46-35 with ten minutes to play.
Louisville’s answer in the second half continued to be Moore who hit her third three to cut the Duke lead back down to eight points.
They wouldn’t get closer than seven for the rest of the game.
After Moore missed, Greenwell didn’t – hitting from the top to keep Duke’s double-digit lead at 49-38 with 7:55 to play.
The Blue Devils made it interesting for the next two minutes, making only one of six shot attempts, while the Cardinals continued to chip away at their deficit.
Another three from Johnson made that task a little harder.
An and-1 from Stevens under the basket still kept Duke in firm control.
Hammond continued to find soft spots in the Blue Devils defense, but paid the price for it.
Going up for a layup, she was fouled hard by Johnson and took a while to get up.
She managed to walk to the bench on her own.
During the break in play, McCallie ripped into her team for its poor defensive play during the sequence.
A 7-2 run helped Louisville to build its confidence to believe that a comeback was possible.
With Hammond back in the game, the Cardinals looked to her to score inside.
However, a block from Stevens denied that chance and heightened the excitement of the final three minutes of the game.
Moore got the ball, drove the lane, and was called for the charge as Williams fronted her.
Louisville gained possession back, but couldn’t score.
Chidom dropped two free throws to push the Duke lead back up to 11 points, 60-49, with a minute to play.
The Cardinals still didn’t go quietly, scoring back-to back threes, and kept Duke working until the end to earn the win.
Free throws allowed the Blue Devils to maintain the buffer it needed as Chidom finished the game the way she started it, putting up a few more points.
Schimmel’s high-arching three-pointer ended Louisville’s night as the Blue Devils held on and extended their record at home to 13-1 on the season – winning their 10th in a row in front of their fans.
“I think defensively, for the most part, we have improved with each game,” Williams said.
“We’ve stayed active and I think we are starting to understand how to use our length on the defensive end. Obviously we had some lulls today and a couple of periods where we didn’t get stops, but for the most part, I think that’s where most of our growth has been in understanding each other.”
Notes: Williams’ double-digit finish was the 100th of her career..Duke’s 18 attempted three-pointers was a season high, while scoring six stayed on pace with the team’s current five three’s made per game over its last 11 games…Coming into the game, Duke averaged 19 turnovers per game – the most for a Duke team since 1990-91.